NYT's Jodi Kantor On The Technology Industry: "A Brand New World In Which Men Ruled"
Thumb sailer
December 22, 2014, 01:32 PM
Print Friendly and PDF

In the New York Times, closet misdemeanour-thinker Jodi Kantor has a long article on the ironies of the ensuing careers of the men and women of the Stanford Class of 1994:

A Brand New World In Which Men Ruled By JODI KANTOR DEC. 23, 2014

Instead of narrowing gender gaps, the technology industry created vast new ones for Stanford University’s pioneering class of 1994.

In the history of American higher education, it is hard to top the luck and timing of the Stanford class of 1994, whose members arrived on campus barely aware of what an email was, and yet grew up to help teach the rest of the planet to shop, send money, find love and navigate an ever-expanding online universe.

They finished college precisely when and where the web was stirring to life, and it swept many of them up, transforming computer science and philosophy majors alike into dot-com founders, graduates with uncertain plans into early employees of Netscape, and their 20-year reunion weekend here in October into a miniature biography of the Internet.

She doesn’t mention Jesse Jackson’s famous and successful 1987 protest march at Stanford: “Hey-hey, ho-ho, Western culture’s got to go.” But this Class of ’94 got the full benefit of Jackson-demanded pedagogical reforms:
The university retooled its curriculum and residential life to prepare its students for a more diverse future. No one was allowed to know the name of his or her freshman roommate before arriving on campus, to prevent prejudgments based on ethnic names. In seminars by day, students read texts by Aboriginal Australian writers; in the evenings, dorm counselors held programs on black and feminist issues. With no iPhones, text messages or even websites to distract them, students immersed themselves in long discussions about how sexism had expressed itself in their families back home or, in later years, about Condoleezza Rice’s policies as provost.
And yet, the the combined wisdom of Jesse Jackson and Australian Aborigine writers when given the heart-felt backing of the Administration somehow didn’t Narrow the Gap:
Yet instead of narrowing gender gaps, the technology industry created vast new ones, according to interviews with dozens of members of the class and a broad array of Silicon Valley and Stanford figures. “We were sitting on an oil boom, and the fact is that the women played a support role instead of walking away with billion-dollar businesses,” said Kamy Wicoff, who founded a website for female writers.

It was largely the men of the class who became the true creators, founding companies that changed behavior around the world and using the proceeds to fund new projects that extended their influence. Some of the women did well in technology, working at Google or Apple or hopping from one start-up adventure to the next. Few of them described experiencing the kinds of workplace abuses that have regularly cropped up among women in Silicon Valley.

But even the most successful women could not match some of their male classmates’ achievements. Some female computer science majors had dropped out of the field, and few black or Hispanic women ever worked in technology at all. The only woman to ascend through the ranks of venture capital was shunted aside by her firm. Another appeared on the cover of Fortune magazine as a great hope for gender in Silicon Valley — just before unexpectedly leaving the company she had co-founded.

Dozens of women stayed in safe jobs, in or out of technology, while they watched their spouses or former lab partners take on ambitious quests. If the wealth among alumni traveled across gender lines, it was mostly because so many had wed one another.

There’s just too much fraternizing with the Enemy.

It’s a little like Kantor’s slightly subversive article last year about how women students at Harvard Business School get lower grades on average, less because of Gender Oppression than because they don’t have time to do their homework because they are going out on so many hot dates with future captains of industry.

Ironically, some of the biggest winners coming out of Stanford in 1994 turned out to be the unpopular dissident right intellectuals such as David Sacks and Peter Thiel, who cowrote a blistering book on the Diversity Mindset at Stanford: The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and Political Intolerance on Campus.

Kantor explains:

Not everyone was troubled by the imbalance. “If meritocracy exists anywhere on earth, it is in Silicon Valley,” David Sacks, an early figure at PayPal who went on to found other companies, emailed that weekend from San Francisco, where he was renovating one of the most expensive homes ever purchased in the city.

Without even setting foot back on campus for the reunion, he was stirring up old ghosts. Because Stanford was so intertwined with the businesses it fostered, the relationships and debates of the group’s undergraduate years had continued to ripple through Silicon Valley, imprinting a new industry in ways no one had anticipated. Mr. Sacks had fought the school’s diversity efforts bitterly; those battles had first made him an outcast among many of his classmates, and then sparked his technology career. …

Shunned by many of his dorm mates, Mr. Sacks made a new home at The Review, which was founded by a law student named Peter Thiel to critique what he saw as incessant political correctness. He and Mr. Sacks saw themselves as relentless defenders of excellence, and they viewed the university’s diversity efforts as its enemy, a clunky, top-down effort at redistributing power. In the pages of The Review, they defined feminism in negative terms — alarmist, accusatory toward men, blind to inherent biological differences. Feminists “see phallocentrism in everything longer than it is wide,” Mr. Sacks wrote. “If you’re male and heterosexual at Stanford, you have sex and then you get screwed.” By his sophomore year, he was the editor of The Review. …

Looking back years later, some alumni wondered aloud how well the thunderous debates about gender and race had really served them. At what turned out to be a formative hour for Silicon Valley, diversity had come to seem to them like a matter of overheated rhetorical contests instead of mutual compacts for success.

Wow, it’s almost as if diversity turns out to be divisive. Instead of noticing that, say, Peter Thiel is smarter than you and you ought to try to get to know him better, you resent his white male privilege.
As Mr. Sacks had predicted, identity politics pushed many people into homogeneous groups; Scott Walker, one of the only African-Americans in the class to try founding a start-up, said in an interview that he regretted spending so much time at his all-black fraternity, which took him away from the white friends from freshman year who went on to found and then invest in technology companies.

But those debates did a great deal for Mr. Sacks. After graduation, he and Mr. Thiel published “The Diversity Myth,” a book-length critique of Stanford’s efforts. Within a few more years, he, Mr. Thiel, Mr. Rabois and others had transformed themselves into a close-knit network of technology entrepreneurs — innovators who created billion-dollar business after billion-dollar business, using the ideas, ethos and group bonds they had honed at The Stanford Review.

Gee, it’s almost as if single purpose start-ups are like rock bands, which are better if they are a few Liverpudlians who like American R&B or whatever: a few guys from the same place and time who like the same kind of music. In fact, didn’t two guys named Jobs and Wozniak, who knew each other because they had the same high school teacher, name their company Apple in tribute to the Liverpudlians’ record label?