working women

Why Some Women Don’t Join Start-Ups (and Other Tech Companies)

There’s been a lot of press about the “bro” culture within tech start-ups ranging from Tinder’s sexual harassment lawsuit to hand-wringing over the (lack of) women in technology and in STEM.  One female VC I know observed anecdotally that gender balance at start-ups was binary: the startups either had “0% women or 33% women” employees.  She hypothesized that once a start-up convinced a woman to join, other women were more likely to join.  Otherwise, it was pretty formidable for a woman to be take the plunge as the “first and only” female employee.

Today I read a survey that offers another reason certain women might not join a start-up: the benefits include free food and on-site foozball tables, but may not include maternity leave.  I’m certainly sympathetic with small start-ups’ financial inability to support paid parental leave, but financial ability (in the form of how well the company was funded) did NOT correlate with whether a start-up offered maternity leave (which the authors at PaperG call “the lost startup benefit“). Two factors did, however matter:

  1. Start-up age: the longer the company existed, the more likely it was to offer maternity leave
  2. Female employees: the more women on staff, the more likely to offer maternity leave

A lot of the conversation about women-in-tech seems to suggest that highlighting the issue is a step in the right direction, but its hard to change the situation overnight.  This study suggests that something practical to immediately help companies attract / retain more female talent might be implementing a maternity leave policy.



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