Sexual Rejection May Toughen Up Men For Entrepreneurship


Here’s a novel theory about why there are so few women tech entrepreneurs: we lack the coping mechanisms that men have developed in response to sexual rejection.

Chizoba Nnaemeka — a female business school student with a formidable resume, including in tech consulting — writes in the MIT Entrepreneurship Review, “My sense is that by the time they are 18, most boys are far more amenable psychologically to entrepreneurship than most girls are because of the coping mechanisms boys have developed.”

She argues that since men are expected to approach women and do not always meet success (loosely defined here), they are in essence practicing for entrepreneurship:

Asking someone out is not unlike trying to start a business, especially when that business is a technology-based startup that might require raising significant amounts of capital. You will be met with rejection –- from investors, customers, friends, family, hapless observers, perennial cynics. Just as the Rubber bands, the entrepreneur needs to be both tough and elastic — responding to rejection with a mixture of skepticism, self-reflection, and self-scrutiny. An entrepreneur cannot survive if his or her recovery strategy consists in thinking A) that the market is wrong or C) that they themselves are utter failures.

Let’s say you agree with the premise that men suffer more sexual rejection than women because traditionally they are meant to make the first move. Isn’t there more than one kind of social pressure to fall short of, many of which pertain to women?

But Nnaemeka cites Duke social research of how boys and girls respond to taking risks and experiencing disappointment, both of which apply to entrepreneurship broadly, beyond the sexy simile:

From as young as 6 years old, male and female perceptions of risk differ substantially. Studies of American children have shown that girls, on the whole, assess risk by evaluating the probability that a given activity will lead to injury (How likely will I get hurt if I jump off this swing?) whereas boys, on the whole, judge risk by the severity of the injury an activity might cause (How badly will I get hurt if I jump off this swing?).

Once injured, physically or otherwise, girls may react differently — in a less elastic way, in a more self-blaming fashion — than boys:

Research conducted at Duke’s social psychology lab…found that girls were more likely to internalise their disappointments than boys, which leads to higher rates of depression. This self-criticism and brooding leaves them disadvantaged when they enter their 20s and start forging their professional paths.

The author makes an express distinction between a business person, working within an institution, and an entrepreneur, who innovates and goes out on his or her (usually his) own. This being an entrepreneurship review, there is obviously an implicit preference for the latter, with its connotations of the lone creative visionary and the eventual massive reward. Yet are all of these risk-averse women so wrong to be reluctant when the rate of failure for startups is so high? Or when considering where male-driven nonchalance about risk got our economy in the past few years?

The Rejection Gene [MIT]

Earlier: Accounting For The Lack Of Women In Technology And Startups

Image via elwynn/Shutterstock.

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