How ‘the Motherhood Penalty’ Plays Out for Startup Founders

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Midway through a call with a prominent venture capitalist last fall, he asked me, apropos of nothing, if I was pregnant. Previously, we’d been discussing what can broadly be described as “business things”—my nascent idea for a company that would tackle the dated world of corporate training, the trade-offs between starting my own company versus joining one of his startups. This abrupt topic shift caught me off guard. I flashed back to the small plus sign on the pregnancy test I’d taken days before.

“This isn’t a job interview,” he countered. Thrown off by the detour to obstetrics, I tried to recall the legal specifics: Was he right? Was it only California law that covered non-employment relationships such as a founder pitching an investor? Why was this happening? When the call ended, I realized the legal details,…

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