Sexism Should Be Determined By Rates, Not Absolute Numbers

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Gawker’s non-gender specific panties are all in a bunch this week after Y-Combinator tried to unbunch everyone’s panties over its diversity numbers.

Y-Combinator is a seed fund which takes in young start ups and provides them with money and guidance in exchange for a portion of equity and future profits. The idea is that if the start up makes it big, everyone gets rich. Y-Combinator is basically Sandra Bullock in the movie The Blindside, while the start ups are that kid who never had a bed before (though in reality they are mostly rich kids who went to Stanford).

The fact that they are rich kids from Stanford is part of the beef, but Gawker is mostly upset about the male thing. It prompted the author to do this:

Last week, I emailed Altman to ask why this post on portfolio stats included the number of YC nuclear energy startups, but not the number of female cofounders or foreign-born cofounders (since Graham had mentioned them specifically.) 

It doesn’t dawn on Gawker that the  reason they list the number of nuclear energy start ups rather than female co-founders is because portfolio statements are about business. When ratings agencies pour through a companies financials, they ask what the balance sheets look like and what diversity there is in the company’s assets – not its staff. S&P doesn’t ask, ” like, how many  non-white dudes do you have?”

More infuriating is this statement by Gawker regarding Y-Combinator’s claim that 39.6% of the founders in our current batch were not born in the US:

That’s not very instructive considering that Paul Graham and Peter Thiel, for example, also both count as foreign-born. 

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You don’t have to spend much time realizing why Gawker doesn’t think Thiel and Graham should count as “foreign-born.” It’s because they’re both straight white men (well, accept maybe Theil isn’t since Gawker childishly tried to out him as gay on their own site). But still according to Gawker neither should count as being diverse because diversity is really about being non-white ( and in the tech world also non-Asian and non-Indian). An upper middle class black kid from Palo Alto brings 100x more to the diversity table than the gay son of German immigrants. That’s how progress works, you bigots.

But by far the biggest sin Gawker commits in its diatribe is ignoring this line in Y-Combinator’s defense:

it appears we fund technical women that apply to YC at a slightly higher rate than technical men that apply to YC for at least the last few years. 

The fact of the matter is that women apply to the start-up incubator in much lower members then men do. However, when they do apply, they are from a statistical standpoint treated better than men are. That should be the end of it.

Gawker seems to think businesses should be run like colleges, which long ago decided that “diversity” was the number one priority ahead of all else. But companies exist to make money. As a seed company, Y-Combinator has the luxury of having the brightest minds come to them with their great ideas. It is not their job, nor does it make financial sense for them to go out into the world begging females to learn how to code. They seed start-ups, not cultivate skill-sets for 50% of the population.

While not perfect, incubators give people without the means to grow their own company an opportunity to do so  while still retaining vast amounts of the equity. The reason this works is because if the incubator seeds the right companies, it will make money. The incubator does not run on altruism, it runs on the idea that the best start-ups will get funding and literally pay dividends in the future.

It appears Y-Combinator is giving women who have the drive and skill to apply for its funding more than a fair chance. That’s not just more than we can ask of it, it’s more than we should ask of it – because requiring it to fund projects it doesn’t believe in will lead to the money being cut off for everyone.

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