The myth is that anyone can come from anywhere and achieve great success in Silicon Valley if they are skilled. It holds that those who “make it” do so due to their excellent ideas and ability, because the tech scene is a meritocracy where what you do, not who you are, matters…
I frequently heard variations of the saying “everyone wants to take the pretty girl to the dance,” which refers to the tendency venture capitalists have to cluster around popular deals. (The prevalence of this phrase is very revealing of who is in these meetings.) In reality, everyone wants to be in business with young, white, male entrepreneurs with connections to high-status people, a pedigree from certain companies, a well-known mentor. Sharon Vosmek, CEO of the nonprofit Astia that helps fund women entrepreneurs, identified “systematic and hidden biases” in technology funding:
VCs hold clear stereotypes of successful CEOs (they call it pattern recognition, but in other industries they call it profiling or stereotyping.) John Doerr publicly stated that his most successful investments — and the no-brainer pattern for future investments — were in founders who were white, male, under 30, nerds, with no social life who dropped out of Harvard or Stanford.
This formula certainly filters out enormous numbers of people who may be equally skilled…
The myth of meritocracy also ignores the level of privilege that participation in the tech scene involves, as i09 editor Annalee Newitz points out:
'Let’s say that most people can have access to computers sometimes but only some people can have access to computers all the time, and then an even smaller group can have access to the net while they’re just out wandering around doing Twitter, right? They’re like, I have my phone and I can say things while I’m walking around where somebody else has to actually go home, to their one computer that they own. So the more that you want to participate in this network of wealth and entrepreneurialism, the more stuff you have to have to participate in it. So there [are] these levels of participation that are enabled by either being wealthier or having the free time to participate.'
Certainly, a level of material wealth is necessary to participate in San Francisco tech culture. Very few pointed to the elephant in the room of assumed wealth: “People behave as if we all make kind of the same.” To forge the type of social connections necessary to move into the upper echelons of the tech scene requires being able to take part in group activities, travel to conferences, and work on personal projects. This requires middle- to upper-class wealth, which filters out most people.
‘There are levels of participation that are enabled by either being wealthier or having the free time to participate.’
The result of this mythology is that it denies the role of personal connections, wealth, background, gender, race, or education in an individual’s success. If, for example, women (or people of color, or gay people) are not getting venture-capital funding at the same rate as men, the myth maintains, it is due to their lack of ability rather than institutional sexism. It also justifies immense wealth as the worthy spoils of the smartest and best.
She is so fabulous. This whole vid is great but her rendition of Skyfall deserves particular attention. So does the cover of Diamonds that she does with her granddaughter at the end.
They chased dreams for us
did everything for us
and then found themselves in a world
they could not relate to,
with children they could not relate to
now dreaming of going back home.
And I, in turn was,
too eastern for the west
too western for the east.
My face does not match
which does not match
which does not match
One foot in,
the other one out
a permanent sense
no matter where
Where is the home
I can dream of?
a thousand and one lifetimes is not enough to spend
‟There’s a misconception that just because someone has Internet access, the digital divide,” the gap between those with Internet access and those without, “has been eliminated,” charges Ortega, who heads a chapter of the digital literacy group One Million New Internet Users.
The problem, Ortega argues, is that large swaths of the population, groups that are predominantly poor and non-white, are largely relying solely on smartphones for Internet access. It’s created a two-tiered system where the rich have access to expensive, high-speed broadband Internet at home and everyone else is relegated to slower connections on mobile devices that seriously limit users’ ability to contribute to the digital conversation.
Ortega views this emerging digital divide as one between “digital consumers” on one hand and “digital contributors” on the other.