Y Combinator held its Startup School event at Stanford this past weekend. Big tech figures like Pinterest’s Ben Silbermann and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg spoke to a room full of entrepreneurs and offered their best business advice.
The room, according to people who were there, was packed. But it was packed with a shocking amount of men. Some of those in the crowd have started a thread on Hacker News, Y Combinator’s in-house news-discussion site, asking where are the women were.
“I was one of the female attendees at Startup School and I was floored by the gender ratio—being in tech, I’m used to being a minority, but this was possibly the most extreme balance I’ve seen,” one attendee wrote. “I’m genuinely interested in whether people have theories about why this might be, and whether any women considered attending but decided not to? Or is this simply a real-life manifestation of the HN community?”
“I saw it too, and I wish I had an answer,” another female attendee replied. “It definitely prompts feelings of ‘what am I even doing here?’ that merely participating on the site does not. The whole ethnicity balance was pretty far out there, too. Considering it was held in Silly Valley, I would have expected to see far more of a mix, but that didn’t seem to happen, either.”
“Really enjoyed Startup School but I agree. I’ve never felt the tech gender ratio as much as I did today,” another said.
The gender disparity at the event was particularly notable, considering that women are running some incredibly important startups these days. That may be why people are asking if the problem is specific to Y Combinator, a high-profile incubator for startups which has launched Reddit, Dropbox, and Airbnb, among others, or if it’s just a symptom of the broader situation of women in tech.
This thread isn’t the first gender ratio problem Y Combinator has faced and Y Combinator has actively asked more women to apply to its program to help change it. Here’s a picture from an earlier event that’s on the Startup School website.* At a quick glance, we only spotted three women. (Click to enlarge.)
*We initially wrote that the below picture is from Saturday’s talk with Mark Zuckerberg after receiving it from a reader. Others who were at the event this weekend say it’s not from this specific talk. Instead, it’s from the 2010 Startup School. Pictured is Mark Zuckerberg, Jessica Livingston and the audience, photographed by Robert Scoble.
Photo: Startup School