“Uterus is a feature, not a bug” is a pretty feminist book by Sarah Lacy which talks a lot about women, and specifically women in tech. However, men can benefit from reading this book too. There are a lot of great point in there about parenting that apply to both moms and dads, and by reading about the kinds of issues women have to deal with on daily basis, men could learn to become more open-minded and helpful.
As you will discover in the book, our society is still pretty male-dominated and is not doing nearly enough to elevate women. In fact, very often women are expected to do more, but get far less credit for doing so, and if you think that this is not true, you are probably part of the problem and should read the book.
If you don’t think you would read the book, or you are curious but not sure if this book is right for you, I made a little summary of the major points below. Note that I am not covering the chapters about troubles at Uber, sexism in Silicon Valley, women of Iceland, or how Chinese moms do it all. To get the real kicker out of the book you have to read it on your own and hear Sarah talk (scream!?) at you on every page.
1: How to be a perfect mom (or dad).
If you think you can be a parent and be perfect at everything, you are in for a surprise. You cannot. Good news though, no one cares. Instead of trying to be perfect, just focus on doing the right things right. Is it going to be hard? You bet, and you won’t even know half of it, but be confident and you will figure things out.
If you are a working mom, it is going to be really hard to do it alone. Get help, nanny/sitter/cleaner whatever, if you can afford it, do it. Stop asking for permission and get shit done.
2: What happens in uterus spills over to work.
Here’s a workplace conundrum — a mom must be constantly available to her children to be considered a good mom, and a good employee must be constantly available to her bosses. But by definition, no one can do both, and when an employee starts to spend time with his/her family, the bosses see it as weakness and try to eradicate such behavior. This causes many employers to reject or be biased against women who would become mothers for the fear of not being able to extract enough value from them. This happens on every level, where bosses discriminate against employees, CEOs against bosses, and VCs against CEOs and so forth.
I’d like to take that further and suggest that same applies to dads, but our society has been putting less pressure on dads to be good dads, and therefore enabled men to split this family-work ratio heavily in favor of work. Don’t believe me? Listen to Oleksiy Kovyrin talk about his early challenges with being a dad, and how he was not able to share it with anyone, for the fear of perception.
Never mind that data shows that most people work far, far less than they think they do, and even the best employees only work for 4hrs a day.
Ok, back to the book, here’s another kicker. Allegedly, if you a woman and you become a mom, your coworkers will naturally think of you as nice, but now that you are mom, they’ll also see you as less competent, simply because you are now a mom. But if you are a man who becomes a dad, you automatically gain on the competence scale, without doing anything at all. That’s messed up. Great time to be a dad!
Last but not least, hostile work environments succeed when they isolate you and make you feel as though you are the only one who has a problem with the way things are. So if you are a woman, a lot of workplaces will discriminate against your, and sometimes they might even do it out of good intensions. For detains on how to deal with terrible employers who think women are not people, please read Sarah’s book.
3: Can you run a startup and be a parent too?
Much like startups, parenting is about putting in the hours, loving the child through the worst, and never giving up. But, doing a startup and being a parent is hard, really hard. Know what you are getting yourself into.
When Sarah was running Pando, while being a single mom to two kids, people would ask her if she was having fun. “Are you f***** kidding me?” was her thought. Running a company is hard as it is. Raising kids is incredibly hard. Doing both at the same time, by yourself, is insane. Sure it was the exhilarating kind of crazy, but still, fun isn’t how one would describe this experience.
Sarah hosts a parenting podcast too and here’s what she learned over the last few years.
“At this point, I’ve had five years of conversation with other parents who are founders, investors, or work at startups. I’m always struck by how the anecdotes all feel personal, and yet they are also universal. Your own experiences and circumstances are absolutely unlike anyone else’s. And yet, another founder or another parent can always relate.”
By the way, did you know a tell-tell sign whether you are a parent or you are not? Whenever something really challenging happens at work, more likely than not parents won’t have a problem dealing with it. Non-parents though might lose their mind because they’ve encountered a situation they can’t exert control over. Parents just get so used to that. It’s true.
4: The bro culture in tech.
White men in tech don’t actually give a shit about diversity. The majority of white men in the survey that was referenced in this book seemed blissfully unaware that sexism and racism even occur in the industry at all. Turns out white men won’t give up power because you show them a series of charts and studies. So, when a woman is being attacked by the status quo, don’t let her stand alone and support her. It will go a long way.
Obviously there is a lot more in the book, read it, and remember, women are people, and often times smarter and better than you.
Dudes who may not be the best dudes to women, remember the old saying that you ought to be nice to nerd because one day you’d end up working for them? That turned out pretty true, right? Well, if all else fails, please at least remember to apply the same logic and hedge your bets.
> If you want to hear a dude’s point of view on the sexism in tech industry, check out this interview with my friend Galen Ward, the CEO of Estately.
5: Divorce and kids
You don’t have to think of divorce as a tragic end to a good thing, but rather as a transition to a whole new thing that will be different, but enjoyable and rewarding in new and exciting ways.
Remember — don’t put the burden of divorce on your kids: Your kids can’t be the only sources of emotional strength; that isn’t fair to them. So what can you do to help yourself?
(A) Own relationship with your kids. Every parent needs to take ownership of their relationship with their children and regularly take care of them alone for days at a time to make sure they are fully checked into that relationship.
(B) Take regular scheduled breaks from your kids. If you cannot recharge to be 100% present with your kids, it’s not going to do them any good. Take breaks, get your shit together, enjoy life.
(C) Don’t work yourself to death. Working abusively brutal hours is the easiest, clearest way to telegraph your hustle to the world. What takes strength and courage is standing up to this expectation.
> If you want to hear about divorce from a single dad’s point of view, check out this Rad Dad Interview with Matt Wallington.
6: TLDR; The answers to life and everything.
If you don’t read this book or anything in it, at least take these points with you.
I. There is no answers. Stop looking in books for an answer. Stop asking permission. Take ownership of your life. Do something.
II. Excel at whatever the thing is you are good at, no matter what that is. Strive to become the best in the world at that.
III. New world order is on the horizon. Women are people, awesome people, and it’s time to let equality stand and empower 50% of our society to achieve awesome things. We will all benefit.
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p.s. Amazing secret revealed: You can most definitely run a startup and have a family life too. Listen to this interview with Matt Shobe. Matt sold a company to Google for $100 million while having a fulfilling family life and three kids. So yeah, you most definitely can have a life and a startup too.