Essays can consist of a number of elements, including: literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. Almost all modern essays are written in prose, but works in verse have been dubbed essays (e.g. Alexander Pope's An Essay on Criticism and An Essay on Man). While brevity usually defines an essay, voluminous works like John Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Thomas Malthus's An Essay on the Principle of Population are counterexamples. In some countries (e.g., the United States and Canada), essays have become a major part of formal education. Secondary students are taught structured essay formats to improve their writing skills, and admission essays are often used by universities in selecting applicants and, in the humanities and social sciences, as a way of assessing the performance of students during final exams.
The concept of an "essay" has been extended to other mediums beyond writing. A film essay is a movie that often incorporates documentary film making styles and which focuses more on the evolution of a theme or an idea. A photographic essay is an attempt to cover a topic with a linked series of photographs; it may or may not have an accompanying text or captions was accused recently of believing things I don't believe about women as programmers and startup founders. So I thought I'd explain what I actually do believe.
Some accused me of being sexist—of being biased against female founders. To anyone who knows Y Combinator that would seem a pretty implausible claim. It's hard to argue I'm biased against female founders when I have a female cofounder myself. And with 3 female partners out of 12, YC has slightly over 3x the venture industry average. While 3 out of 12 is not 50-50, it would be very hard to find another firm of our size in the venture business where women run the show to the degree they do at YC. I may be the public face of the company, but it's impossible to imagine YC doing something that Jessica, Kirsty, and Carolynn were against.
More thoughtful people were willing to concede YC wasn't biased against women, but thought we should be actively working to increase the number of female founders. As one put it, instead of being a gatekeeper, we should be a gateway.
But that is exactly what Y Combinator is. The people who caricature us as being only interested in funding young hotshots forget that when we started, in 2005, young founders were not a privileged group but a marginalized one. VCs didn't want to fund them, and when they did they often as not tried to replace them with "adult supervision." The fact that young founders seem a privileged group now is partly due to our efforts. We attacked the problem not by advocacy but by action—by funding more young founders than VCs would, and then helping them to overcome the bias against them that they'd encounter among other investors. It worked rapidly, because it had a double effect: if you support a young founder who otherwise would not have been able to find funding and they go on to succeed, you get not just one more young founder but also the additional ones they inspire by their example.
We're doing the same thing for female founders. We fund more female founders than VCs do, and we help them to overcome the bias they'll encounter among other investors. In the current YC batch, 16 out of 68 companies, or 24%, have female founders. That's almost twice the rate at which VCs fund such companies.  If these founders go on to succeed, they'll become what we know from experience will be the most powerful force for encouraging other female founders: examples of people like them who've done it.
The way we got so many female founders was by being less…