To put it bluntly, no.
Of course it’s not OK. But if that’s all there was to it, this would be a very short blog post. Let’s try that again…
For those of you who haven’t seen it, Silicon Valley is a TV show following a group of men in San Francisco, and their start up. As with many other HBO shows, it has a great cast including Thomas Middleditch, T. J. Miller, Martin Starr, Kumali Narjiani and Zach Woods. Those may not be names you’ve heard of, but trust me when I say you’ll know their faces.
It’s a brilliantly funny show about working in tech and particularly the ups and downs of a start up. Critics are praising it as a show that “may truly be the satire for our times”, and as someone working for a tech startup I concur. It is to tech what The Thick of It is to politics. And it’s hilarious.
But, there are no women in it.
Wait, I hear the die-hard fans cry, there is a woman in it. What’s her face. The one who works for the eccentric billionaire.
Ah yes, Monica Hall (portrayed by Amanda Crew), who doesn’t actually have a surname on her IMDb page. You are right, she is a woman. But has almost no power within the show. In fact, her inability to get people to do what she wants them to do is a plot point in more than one episode. She is an assistant and a romantic interest. Not much more.
Admittedly about halfway through season two a woman joins the dev team, and another one starts funding their business, but these are still secondary characters.
And that is because, for whatever reason, this is a story about men. You could argue that the lack of female representation in the show is reflective of the working environment they are satirising, and to a certain extent you’d be correct.
The big tech companies don’t have women in technical roles, Amazon, Google, Apple. Twitter and Microsoft average out at roughly 30% of their workforce being female (let’s not even get into race and sexuality questions, or we will be here all day!).
It, therefore, shouldn’t be surprising that Silicon Valley is predominantly male. They even joke about it, pointing out that a tech conference has a 30% female audience compared to the 13% of most tech start ups.
So what’s the problem? Apart from the fact that they are able to make a joke like that because it is basically true? That they are following rather than leading. I’m not saying I want to see a female version of the show (although I totally do!). But it is more than a little frustrating that not one of the five core people in the company is female.
I think it is definitely possible to lead by example, and I’m a huge believer in the “if she can see it then she can be it” mentality. The more rarified the media make women who work in tech look, the more unlikely and uncommon they become. It really is that simple.
Yes, I know that TV shows and films aim to “hold a mirror up to life” and reflect what they see around them, but they don’t need to. And it seems to me to be a very easy excuse to get out of a difficult situation.
Honestly, I could talk about this for days. The fact that it’s alright to put only men into TV shows like this, because it ‘reflects’ the industry seems positively archaic. Just because it happened in Shakespeare’s day, doesn’t mean it should happen now. We’ve come a long way since then, we have flushing toilets and everything.
Why is it always a man that has to save the world? Or, according to TV and movies, work in the tech industry?
There aren’t words.