The Startup Nation Paradox:

The Startup Nation Paradox:

How the French Welfare State Amplifies Gender Inequalities
Jen Schradie, CRIS Seminar, March 8th
  • Image OPOLJA (via Shutterstock) Image OPOLJA (via Shutterstock)

CRIS Scientific Seminar 2023-2024

Friday, March 8th 2024, 11:30 am
Sciences Po, Room K008 (1, St-Thomas-d'Aquin)

The Startup Nation Paradox:
How the French Welfare State Amplifies Gender Inequalities

Jen Schradie

Assistant Professor, Sciences Po - CRIS

Jen Schradie (image Alexis Lecomte / Sciences Po)Does the welfare state paradox apply to the startup tech sector? If so, how?

This theory posits that welfare states improve gender equality but not with leadership positions because women are perceived to overuse state-supported family leave policies. At the same time, digital technology was supposed to flatten societal differences. An early view of the dot-com era was that anyone with a novel idea or a computer could launch a startup. This Silicon Valley Ideology suggests that Internet technology can help overcome previous work-place hierarchies and inequalities because the playing field is more level in a networked capitalist society.

In this multi-method analysis of the French digital startup ecosystem, I find that the welfare state paradox does not operate with the tech sector in the same way as with existing corporate structures. Instead, the French state, in this case, indirectly benefits men more than women but not at the point of hiring or promotion. Instead, the mechanism is through the welfare state itself: government-funded unemployment and childcare benefits. Men are more strategically able to leverage employment payments as an investor while women wrestle with whether or not to make use of these payments at all, and due to family responsibilities women cannot always take advantage of limited childcare options as a new entrepreneur. Simply, a mismatch has emerged between policy design and market forms, especially with less formal, higher-risk work arrangements. The result is a startup nation paradox.

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