Unequal division of labor in the home, and startups lack of support for parents,
are linked to gender gap in Seattle startups.
Fathers with young children more likely than mothers with young children to be working in a Seattle startup
Overall, 42% of men surveyed had children under 18, compared to 31% of women. Of those parents, men were much more likely than women to have at least one child 4 and under (43% and 28%, respectively). This demonstrates that there is a significant barrier to participating in startups for women with young children. Since our data also revealed that the most common age for anyone to be in a Seattle startup is 25-34, when they are most likely to have young children, resolving this barrier could have significant impacts on gender equity in Seattle startups.
Men significantly more likely to have support of
spouse at home
While 70% of female respondents had a spouse that worked full time, only a third of male respondents did. Also, 29% of men had a spouse that was a stay at home parent, compared to less than 1% of women. This was reflected in the qualitative analysis, in which numerous people claimed that parenting was a significant barrier to entering the startup world unless one had a stay at home spouse—which is almost exclusively men.
However, in the anecdotal responses, multiple men communicated
a wish for more time with their children.
We asked if they felt bad for leaving the kids in the morning when the go to work,
and if so, why?
Here are a few responses:
“Not having the time or energy to be the sort of father I want to be”
“While my job is the only/essential source of income for our family, I know my wife works very hard to get the kids all they need. When I leave in the morning, I always wish I had more time to help out.”
“Not getting to see them grow up”
Respondents of all genders report that men do significantly less childcare
Of male respondents with children under age 18, only 4% claimed to do more childcare, while 20% said they split childcare duties with their spouse, and a full 73% said their spouse is responsible for primary childcare. For women, 40% were the primary provider, 45% split duties, and 15% said their spouse claims responsibility.
“In my current role (at a venture backed company), I see men with kids being much more able to with those long hours. My husband (also at a start-up) stays later as work just because it's expected of men. So, all of these experiences make it clear to me that women with kids are at a disadvantage. I think this is unique to industries that require a ton of hours.”
“I've worked in multiple startups, and everyone I have seen succeed there is either a single guy or a guy with a wife who takes care of everything so that he can work all the hours of the day.”
Childcare and caregiver support insufficient
for moms in startups
Half of female respondents report that their startup does not provide an adequate level of childcare and caregiver support, compared to 17% of male respondents.
Anecdotal data demonstrated that without a supportive company culture and good policies, many faced backlash for using parental leave, or even the possibility of using it in the future.
“Have witnessed many female colleagues go on maternity leave, only to come back to find their job is no longer the same or they cannot sustain the startup hours so end up leaving the workforce all together.”
“I have seen start-ups make it challenging for the mother to check out and be with their child. I have also seen paternity leave men being very engaged at work even though they are on leave. Guilted in to working I think.”
“I have been in interview loops where the feedback after the interview mentioned the candidate wanting kids, having kids or celebrating their first marriage anniversary. Various members of the team who were giving feedback on the candidate expressed concern or hesitancy to hire someone who was going to be taking leave in a year or less if they were given the role.”
On the flip side, some startups have successfully implemented
policies to support parents.
27% of women were happy with the support from their startup, as well as 24% of men
(24% and 32% were neutral, respectively).
In the qualitative feedback, a major theme from those who were happy with their support
was true buy-in from leadership.
“We authored the policy to support a diverse set of circumstances and we have buy in from leadership.
Plus, we have had three people exercise the leave. One primary parent & two secondary parents.”
“I have first hand witnessed some incredible support by leaders regarding flexible scheduling
and working from home that especially benefit working moms.”
“Great environment here. We are small enough that everyone is 'family' still so it's
all good if someone needs 2-3 months off with her new baby.”