Sunday, June 16, 2013

Silicon Valley: The "Ultimate Meritocracy"

My fellow denizens of Silicon Valley are fond of referring to our happy little ecosystem as the ultimate meritocracy.  It's definitely true that in comparison to the rigid and/or corrupt regimes that prevail in other industries and geographies, Silicon Valley is a meritocracy, but it is far from perfect.

I often joke with the female/minority/over-30 entrepreneurs that I meet that Silicon Valley *is* the ultimate meritocracy, as long as you're a young male who is white or Asian, who went to Stanford or an Ivy League school.

Now Catherine Bracy from Team Obama's technology field office has dug out the data behind my statement:

The astounding facts are that essentially 100% of funded founders are white or Asian, and 89% of founding teams are all-male.  In comparison, less than 1% of funded founders are black, and only 3% of founding teams are all-female.

If you want to claim that Silicon Valley is the ultimate, nearly-perfect meritocracy, you need to also make the argument that white and Asian males are the only people who can become entrepreneurs.

Anyone want to make that argument?  I didn't think so.

Yet plenty of people are willing to state the semantic equivalent, which is that Silicon Valley is a meritocracy.


Reason5 said...

Wouldn't a perfect meritocracy produce mostly founders who are White or Asian, and mostly male?

1. Selecting the best engineers will select mostly males, because most engineers are males.

2. Selecting the best engineers will select mostly Whites and Asians, because most students with high academic scores in engineering are Whites and Asians.

That sounds pretty meritocratic (selecting those who perform the best).

Fascinating data going back 5 generations suggests that low-scoring groups aren't going to on average become tech wizzes anytime soon.

Respect everybody. But also respect that the world is statistics-driven even when we don't want it to be.

Thanks for the articles.

Chris said...

White and Asian males are overrepresented, but not to the point of making up 99% of all founders.