Silicon Valley has been grappling with gender equality and diversity for years. And a recent blog post about a pregnant startup founder shows that the issue remains a hot-button topic that the industry has yet to come to terms with.
Peretz Partensky, a cofounder of startup Sourcery, published a post on Medium on Friday detailing the some of the experiences of his partner, who is pregnant and leading the company's latest fundraising efforts.
Parentsky's partner, Na'ama Moran, is "not the kind of person to pretend about anything," he says. "In the third trimester, her condition is nearly impossible to hide anyway. And yet surprisingly, most investors have scrupulously avoided discussing the fact."
Left unadressed, he said, the pregnancy "lingers as a significant uncertainty and manifests itself in the form of an unconscious bias the investors themselves don’t realize."
One male venture capital investor finally did address the issue, telling Moran that "everyone you meet will wonder how your pregnancy will impact your ability to deliver the fundraising goals."
Parentsky's post was optimistic, laying out his vision for how the partners planned to deal with the issue and why he felt he needed to speak out against the double-standard around men and woman founders who become parents.
But the post prompted a lengthy discussion on the online forum Hacker News, with more than 100 comments, that shows the obstacles and attitudes that pregnant woman must still overcome even in the seemingly enlightened tech world.
"Can you fundraise if you openly say that you have a time-intensive hobby that you will under no circumstances give up for working on your company?" wrote one commenter. "If you would not finance someone who openly says that he/she will not give up his/her time-intense hobby for the company, isn't this the same as not financing people who are pregnant?"
"From the perspective of the VC, yeah, it seems unfair to screen based on that – but it also seems unfair to screen based on looks or personality or accent or whatever, all of which is (probably?) happening," wrote another.
Much of this is paralleled in the broader corporate world, but the topic has become a lightning rod in Silicon Valley's startup scene, where long work hours and an all-consuming devotion to the job are de rigueur. And while Silicon Valley likes to think of itself as a bastion of progressive thinking, there's plenty of evidence that it remains far behind when it comes to gender and racial diversity. A recent study by Glassdoor, for instance, found that women computer programmers earn on average 72 cents for every dollar dollar earned by men.
"This is a great question," said another Hacker News commenter about the Medium post. "It forces the greater question: Can you 'Be Dedicated' and be more than one thing. Silicon valley seems to believe: You can't be a CEO and pregnant. You can't be a lead programmer and old (> 30). You can't love both Linux and Windows. You can't be Democrat and vote for a Republican. How did we become so decided."