Visas, Vitalik & Gender Equality Paradox

Visa concerns deter foreign-born PhDs from working in startups

Suggested by Sam Dumitriu, Research Director, The Entrepreneurs Network

A survey of over 2,000 US PhD students reveals that foreign-born PhD graduates with science and engineering degrees from American universities apply to and receive offers for technology startup jobs at the same rate as US citizens, but are only half as likely to actually work at fledgling companies. The problem? The high costs of sponsoring immigrant workers puts startups at a disadvantage compared to established firms such as Google and Facebook.

The researchers also found that foreign-born PhD students had a higher risk tolerance and a lower-preference for high pay than native-born PhD students. A larger follow-up study just released finds that foreign-born PhD students have greater entrepreneurial intentions and are more interested in commercialising research than US-born PhD students, but start businesses at a lower rate. The authors blame the US visa system again.

While the above study is focused on the US, it fits with our research on the UK. Our Job Creators report found that half of the UK’s fastest growing companies have at least-one immigrant founder. One of the report’s case studies was Miguel Martinez, co-founder of Signal AI. He started the company during the last year of his PhD. He recently told us that if he wasn’t an EU citizen, starting a company would have violated the terms of his student visa.

Vitalik Buterin on effective altruism, better ways to fund public goods, the blockchain’s problems so far, and how it could yet change the world

Suggested by Philip Salter, Founder, The Entrepreneurs Network

"Blockchains as they currently exist are in many ways a joke, right?” is something you wouldn't expect the co-founder of Etherium to concede. But Vitalik Buterin is the kind of person who defies expectations. Despite the reservations, in the latest 80,000 Hours podcast Vitalik still makes a bullish case for the blockchain – both the extent to which it’s actually helped people in developing countries move money around, and the potential deployment of blockchain applications outside of cryptocurrency.

Vitalik's views are insightful beyond blockchain though. To pluck one quote more or less at random, here he is on the threat of nuclear war. "A lot of problems become easier when you stop living in cities. Like in the nuclear case, I did the math once and if you spread out everyone equally across the entire earth’s surface then 7.6 billion people divided by 150 million square kilometres of land mass gives you 51 people per square kilometre and at that rate nuclear bombs become a less cost-efficient way of killing people than hiring samurais to run around with swords."

Listen to or read the whole thing. The host, Robert Wiblin, gives a useful introduction to anyone unfamiliar with the basics of blockchain at the start.

Part-time jobs help women stay in paid work

Suggested by Annabel Denham, Associate Director and Head of the Female Founders Forum, The Entrepreneurs Network

The gender equality paradox – recently articulated by Nima Sanandaji in his work on the Nordic Glass Ceiling – takes on a new significance in this Economist article examining the limitations of part-time work. Three-quarters of working women in Holland are part-time, and while the nation is often lauded for its work-life balance and contented children, these “come at a price”.

Just as Sanandaji has brought to light the aspects of Nordic social policies which have negatively affected some women’s career progress, so the Netherlands has the largest gap between men and women’s monthly income and pension entitlements across all western European countries. As with the gig economy or zero hours contracts, part-time work can be a welcome alternative to women leaving the labour market altogether.

Interestingly, median hourly pay for part-time employees was 4.4% higher for women than for men – but this will not compensate for the article’s finding that part-time jobs pay less per hour than full-time ones. “Part-timers are more likely to have a ‘bad’ job – one offering little training and few legal rights.” And crucially, even men face a dilemma: their requests to work part-time “are more likely to be rejected. And those who do work part-time risk discrimination.” Until we do away with these double standards, “many couples will still choose to scale back her career, rather than his”.

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