The Ladies Room – Part Two

I spent some time this week at the Maine Startup & Create Week – which was so well done, BTW — fantastic city/fantastic people and amazing event.  On Monday, one of the panels was called “Women and Entrepreneurship.”  I’m not sure if it was a stroke of genius, or highly ironic, but the panel was held in the Portland Masonic Temple — yes, the fraternal order of Masons which largely excluded women for centuries.

As I have said before, I have mixed feelings about focused women’s events. (There’s a reason this is Part Two.)

  • I prefer to participate in diversity-oriented events — more perspectives are needed in the startup world.
  • I find that most women’s events at conferences are poorly attended by men making them often poorly attended overall (notable exception being the women’s event at this year’s Up Global Summit in Las Vegas which seemed to have almost as many male attendees as women)
  • It seems counter-productive and almost rude and exclusionary to deem a panel or an event woman-oriented.  And isn’t that what we are trying to cure?


  • I still see a dearth of women in leadership roles in startups.  I’m still a minority at most events and meetings I attend.  Maybe we do need to bend over backwards to get women out and offer special events for them.
  • Women still get a fraction of the capital men’s companies receive.  And the ones that get funded, often report it is harder.  Even though Mass Innovation Nights companies have collected pulled in more than $800 million in funding, only a fraction of that went to women owned and operated businesses. Even with special groups like Golden Seeds, Springboard Enterprises and Belle Capital.
  • Many of the women-owned companies I see are smaller, retail or services businesses, not the high growth businesses I see from the opposite sex.  These businesses are often smaller and weaker lacking the momentum a larger enterprise enjoys.

As a closing note, in this Ladies Room blog post is a literal Ladies Room mention.  After the panel, I visited the facilities and walked into a rather odd-shaped room. On one side of the room was the normal row of stalls.  On the other side of the room, a heavy curtain.  And, behind the curtain…a row of urinals.  Evidently, there is no “real” Ladies Room there, just a repurposed Men’s room.

I’ll take it.