How Realistic is HBO's 'Silicon Valley'? Sadly, It Has The Lack-of-Women Part Right
While we're just a few episodes deep into HBO's Mike Judge comedy Silicon Valley , there is definitely one thing they've got right about the real-life Palo Alto: it's kind of a sausage fest. In the pilot, Gavin Belson, played by Big Love's Matt Ross, singles out the typical tech Mecca grouping: tall skinny white guy, short skinny asian guy, fat guy, guy with weird facial hair, and an East Indian guy, remarking "it's like they trade guys until they all have the right group." What's missing from these groups? Women. So where are the series' women? They're missing, just like they're missing in the real Silicon Valley.
While the women of the tech industry and beyond are rallying with Sheryl Sandberg's call to Lean In, it's often difficult to detect where the reality lies. The startup realm is still dominated by white male engineers, and as recent events have shown, it doesn't matter if you're a CEO, if you're a woman, you're not really part of the club. The show itself was inspired by real life, so it makes sense that that mentality eked in. In the late eighties, creator Mike Judge moved to Silicon Valley to work at a startup video card company. He later ended up quitting, citing a certain Stepford Wives style conformity, and cult-like devotion. Is it that same conformity and devotion that makes the booming region resistant to change, especially where women are concerned? The research seems to suggest so.
Inc. Magazine recently published the experiences surrounding a study of the status of female innovators in the era of the innovation economy. Most fascinating perhaps, is that before they even began, the researchers encountered resistance and attacks from elite branches of the Silicon community. It goes without saying that there are several meaty roadblocks for women in tech, that don't just involve penetrating the bro-hood of engineers.
For one, time and again, female helmed companies attract less funds from venture capitalists and investors, which keeps women-led businesses small. (It is to be noted, however, that through crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, women entrepreneurs are closing the gap and slowly but surely bucking that trend). While the cast of Silicon Valley currently only boasts one female regular among it's dude-heavy cast, it's not terribly inaccurate. At its core, the show is a scathing and accurate portrayal of Palo Alto's love affair with itself, right down to its lack of women. We do hope the show will tackle women's role in the Valley, (or lack thereof) soon, but that's just a matter of writing the story. The meatier question is: When will the real Silicon Valley rewrite its men-only narrative and welcome women in to innovate?