The Corner

The Coming Campaign for ‘Gender Balance’ in Silicon Valley

Uh-oh. The New York Times has officially noticed an obvious feature of Silicon Valley start-ups: They’re headed by males. A Times article over the weekend on the origins of Instagram, the photo-sharing app acquired last week by Facebook for $1 billion, observed that “by and large,” the start-up culture “is a network of young men, many who attended Stanford and had the attention of the world’s biggest venture capitalists before they even left campus.” 

True enough. Every recent and not-so-recent IPO and buy-out of a breakthrough communications technology has featured a bunch of guys in T-shirts and jeans laughing all the way to the bank. Though the Times did not raise a fuss about this gender imbalance in this weekend’s Instagram article, don’t expect it and every other organ of elite influence to take this “problem” lying down. 

Here’s what we will see over the coming months and years: A flood of articles and conferences exploring the “gender gap” in the high-tech sector; personal testimonies from disgruntled female undergrads and grad students about discrimination in the science fields; published rankings of venture-capital firms based on how many female-headed start-ups they bankroll; taxpayer-funded high school and college programs to cultivate female engineers and entrepreneurs; additional diversity bureaucrats in colleges to bludgeon computer-science departments into hiring female professors; internships for females at venture-capital firms; threats from the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights to colleges and high schools regarding their responsibility for the start-up gender gap; Ford and Rockefeller Foundation grant programs to set up mentoring programs for female technologists; and awards ceremonies to honor venture capitalists who have nurtured female-headed start-ups. 

Never mind that America’s technology sector is the envy of the world and the most productive, dynamic aspect of the U.S. economy — in other words, that there is absolutely nothing broken about it. Never mind that it is driving economic progress throughout the world as American products allow entrepreneurs to more efficiently join the global marketplace. And never mind that there is not a trace of sex discrimination in American science departments today. I hung out with people in Stanford’s computer science and artificial intelligence programs in the 1980s while I was in law school; the idea that the professors or students there gave a damn about the sex of their colleagues is absurd — they were interested in one thing only: the power of ideas. And the venture capitalists who fund them are interested in one thing only: making a profit. 

The inevitable campaign for “gender balance” in Silicon Valley will also be indifferent to the fact that females are fast surpassing males in other sectors of the U.S. economy. Females are now 60 percent of all graduate students and receive 57 percent of undergraduate degrees. They dominate college bureaucracies and are a majority of professional white-collar workers. Nowhere are they victims. But if there is one area in American life where testosterone, competitiveness, fanatical drive, ambition, creativity, meritocracy, and high-end math skills still give males the edge, it must be fixed. 


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