Blurry Boundaries

Natalie MacNeil was standing in front of a room full of middle-aged men. She’d just completed her pitch for venture capital funding for She Takes on the World, a website for women in business.

“Tell me, Natalie, what are your plans for having kids,” a gentleman asked.

The unmarried, Emmy-winning entrepreneur in her late 20s was taken aback.

“The first thing that popped into my mind was ‘Are you f-ing kidding me?’ They would have never asked a man that.”

In a typical interview setting, asking about a job applicant’s pregnancy plans would violate U.S. discrimination laws. But when it comes to the VC world, the lines are blurred.

“When someone invests in your company, they are very entrenched in your business. It’s like being married,” says MacNeil.

“Wouldn’t you ask a potential life partner about kids before you decided to get married?”

Politically incorrect as it may sound, a founder having a kid in the next year or two, could impact the company’s growth potential.

Countless entrepreneurs of both genders have certainly disproved this theory, but it remains a concern for some investors.

How can we handle these situations?

MacNeil didn’t let the curveball question throw her off. The experience did change her view of those investors, however.

“It was clear their values weren’t on the same page as mine,” she says.

So, she continued “dating” investors until she found the perfect match for her business.

Bonus PINK Link: Save time with these eight great apps for working moms.

Do you think it’s OK for investors to ask women entrepreneurs about plans for kids?

By Debra Shigley

Debra is a former employment attorney turned host of Deb’s Kitchen and author of The Go-Getter Girl’s Guide. You can visit her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @Debrashigley.

“Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon, and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world.” Jane Addams

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