On the Bias Toward Writing About Bias

WomenTechInvestorThe last two years have seen countless articles about why there aren’t more successful women in tech. First, a story is published about the dearth of female entrepreneurs or female investors (or both), then people either applaud the piece or enumerate why its wrong-headed (or both). Finally, someone else is legitimately wronged by some knucklehead, and the cycle begins anew.

Much of the coverage has had a positive impact. By shining a light on age-old behaviors that were deemed acceptable for too long, more tech startups are instituting sensitivity training and diversity initiatives. Women who felt isolated in facing gender bias have learned that they’re far from alone.

The many reports about women in tech have also put a finer point on some differences between male and female entrepreneurs that are now being actively addressed.

For example, Mar Hershenson, a serial entrepreneur-turned venture capitalist, now advises some of the female entrepreneurs with whom she meets to “raise their voice – not be afraid to talk about the best-case scenario for their startups.” Talking up their work doesn’t always come as naturally to women, says Hershenson. But “venture firms look for big vision, nothing-is-going-to-stop-me type pitches,” and getting that memo beforehand is useful, she adds.

Still, some think much of the coverage around women in tech is becoming counterproductive.

Mada Seghete, cofounder of the deep-linking tech company Branch Metrics, says some of what she reads in the media rings true. For example, she observed more of a “risk-taking attitude, to some extent” by her male classmates at Stanford, where Seghete — who has two engineering degrees from Cornell — recently snagged her MBA.

Yet Seghete also notes that a higher percentage of her female classmates have seen their businesses take off since graduating, partly because “a lot of guys played with the ideas and took their time” while their female peers dove into things that are “less risky,” says Seghete.

Among those companies is The League, a dating startup cofounded by Seghete’s former classmate Amanda Bradford. It just closed on $2.1 million in funding last week.

Seghete also seems to think the ongoing narrative of women as victims can have unintended consequences – namely, making women unnecessarily ill at ease.

“Even as a software developer, I don’t consider that I’m different. And maybe it’s because I don’t anticipate bias that I’m confident in a way that people don’t look at me differently,” says Seghete. (Her own company — cofounded with classmates Alex Austin, Dmitri Gaskin, and Mike Molinet — has raised $3 million led by New Enterprise Associates.)

“If I thought I’d be facing bias in a situation, then I might be more self-conscious,” she says. “It would be a self-fulfilling process.”

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