I’ve been watching the AMC series Halt and Catch Fire, and in Season 2: Episode 2, “New Coke”, the two female tech founders are pitching a VC who asks if they have children or are going to have children.
“What about kids?” he asks. “Do you have or want kids?”
When asked what that has to do with anything, he says, “Well, when I invest in a company, I don’t just bet on an idea, I bet on the people. Success is no Sunday drive. It’s not another to-do tacked to the fridge. If you two, as you claim, are really gonna run this business, I need to know you’re fully committed, long-term. Even over, you know, biological imperatives.”
This is when the founders realize there’s little need to continue the conversation. “Are you going to give us the money, or not?” says one. Cue the eye roll.
Let’s talk about that phrase, “long-term.” An average maternity leave in the U.S. is 6 to 8 weeks long. But there are many other reasons why a founder, any founder, could be unavailable…long-term.
- The proverbial “hit by a bus” – a car, cycling or pedestrian accident. Both sexes get hit and recovery takes a long time, if you recover.
- Or maybe the founder is in the car. Men themselves admit it — they’re less safe as drivers than women. Men get more DUIs, traffic violations and are deemed responsible for a greater portion of car accidents. They are generally more aggressive behind the wheel, and when they’re in accidents, these tend to be more severe. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, between 1975 to 2015, the number of male crash deaths was more than twice the number of female crash deaths.
- In most countries, men live shorter lives than women overall. In the United States, the male disadvantage is 5 years (75 vs. 80). (Population Reference Bureau) Five years is a long time in a startup.
- Men are more likely to suffer from hearing loss. If you are worried about a founder having the wherewithal to run the business while pregnant or with young children, I would be more worried about a founder who suddenly couldn’t hear my input.
- More men still smoke, and smoking-related ailments, such as emphysema and respiratory cancer still kill more men. Nothing says “unavailable” like a headstone.
- Men suffer with more circulatory problems including cardiovascular disease and diabetes, according to the Population Reference Bureau.
- According to a report filed in the U.S. National Library of Medicines and National Institutes of Health, the average age of female sufferers of coronary artery disease is about ten years older than that of male sufferers. If five years in a startup is a long time, ten years is an eternity. I’m liking my odds.
Silly examples? Sure. But so is asking a female founder about having or wanting kids.
(P.S. The season returns on Sunday. Binge now on Netflix to get ready!)