This post is part of a warmup for our Startup 101 courses happening on Feb 19th and Feb 25th (as well as these dates here) – remaining spaces still available, and you can have a sneak peek at the prep book (full of useful links and resources) here

“We need more females in startups” seems like a sexist and obvious statement. I believe in what Marissa Meyer said about passion being a gender neutralizing force. We don’t need more females in startups, we need more smart people in startups, and if some of those smart people happen to be female, perhaps the unspoken issue is that they’re the only ones standing in their own way.

Kingdoms and nests

Lately, I’ve noticed that a lot of my guy friends seem to be putting pressure on themselves to ‘build their kingdom,’ as one of them put it. This coincides with the pressure a lot of my female friends seem to be putting on themselves to ‘build their nest,’ as this Atlantic piece put it:

“Heterosexual women today, in certain milieus, find themselves placed into one of two categories: too young to settle down, and too old to find a man. There is a window of opportunity to get married, but it is ephemeral almost to the point of non-existence. It falls at a different age according to region, or the idiosyncratic biases of one’s circle, but hovers around 27. “Too young” refers not to teen marriage, but to any commitment entered into by a grown woman deemed still a child by those around her.”

Leaning back

Sheryl Sandberg talks about this in her TED talk. If you’re a woman in your twenties, there’s a subconscious cultural temptation to, in her words, ‘lean back.’ It caused a debate, and I am not trying to impose my own views on feminism because I’m still figuring them out myself (in summary, I think women benefit from supporting each other in whatever choice each of us decides to make). I see Marisa Meyer becoming Yahoo’s CEO while pregnant and I read the End of Men and I just think about how you never know how life is going to turn out and how you often don’t know what you want until you get it.

The more women I see ‘leaning back’ the more I think about the definition of passion. Passion, to me, means pursuing something you can’t help but be interested in. I don’t think you ‘choose’ or ‘find’ your passion – I think you stumble upon it when you follow what breaks your heart, what keeps you up at night, what drives you through your own limits.

There are males and females who don’t know what their passion is, but I have noticed way too many women in their late twenties prematurely giving up on their careers because somewhere along the way, we’re sold the idea that it’s fine for us to be somewhat interested in building our own kingdoms, but really, what we should be more concerned about is building our nests.

Miss Representation” outlines this beautifully – from a young age, girls are taught the story that as soon as Ariel ends up with Eric or Cinderella meets the Prince, the lights fade and credits roll because that’s the happy ending. The story arc revolves around finding the prince, landing the prince, then walking off into the sunset with him.

Designing your own answers

I wouldn’t punish any other woman in my head for their choice to focus on their kingdom or their nest. I’m a family-oriented person and I recognize that as females, we have biological limits. Just yesterday, I read this summary of one of my favorite books from last year, and her last slide is one of those big red neon, “HEY, YOU WITH A UTERUS: THAT THING’S GOT AN EXPIRY DATE.”

At the same time, my Dad always encouraged me to figure out what made me tick professionally and to throw my heart into it. He always emphasized to me that anything was possible if I put my mind to it and kept pragmatically idealistic expectations. Sometimes I wonder if I’m being too kingdom-crazy or if I’m being too nest-crazy but then I realize that only I can give myself the answers and that it takes time to figure out where you sit.

I wonder if too many smart girls stop chasing their own dreams because somewhere along the way, they start chasing a ring instead, because the ring becomes their dream, their narrative to aim for. Is it a fear that in the pursuit of their own “selfish” interests, they might ‘miss out’ on whatever it is those Disney movies portray as the magic ingredient to happiness? If they’re too “selfish”, will that come back to haunt them later? I ask myself these questions and I think like many members of our generation, my ideal is interdependence – i.e. having a partner where you both work on each other’s kingdoms and nests.

Startup 101

I speak to female friends who have excellent ideas and stellar abilities but lack the self-confidence to build a kingdom as well as a nest. That’s why I’m excited about our startup courses on Feb 19th and Feb 25th (as well as these dates here).

I promise not to be biased towards the females in the room, but if you know someone who’s always been interested in starting her own company and just needs a bit of a boost, I’d encourage you to pass this link onto her and tell her that she can come talk to me in person. If you know someone who wants to start their own business someday but has no idea what they’re interested in, they’d enjoy this one-day course.

I hope that the Startup 101 courses help to push people (male and female) towards the idea that in a startup, you might be over-worked and under-paid, but you get to pour your energy into something larger than yourself that you truly believe in; sometimes it’s not a nest or a kingdom, it’s something you can’t quite describe, that belongs to you and you alone.

This post is part of a warmup for our Startup 101 courses happening on Feb 19th and Feb 25th (as well as these dates here) – remaining spaces still available, and you can have a sneak peek at the prep book (full of useful links and resources) here


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