I was struck by the contrast in reporting of two very different women in Silicon Valley. Matt Marshall writes of Joanna Rees-Gallanter, aka “Alley Cat”, as she goes through a tumultous rolling close of her new venture fund at VSP Capital. As Matt puts it “She’s got an interesting story, and it reveals the kind of grit it takes to get where she is. She told us about how people laughed at her idea of starting a venture firm, and how hard it was to transition from a non-traditional background. She even tried restaurants.” It really is hard in a very male-dominated industry like investment to make inroads. My take to Matt: Rolling closes and last minute sells. Been there, done that. Stress city. I’m glad to see a positive story about a woman VC who’s put together the team and closed the fund. Can’t wait to see what she does with it. Keep these stories coming”.
A very different view on Richard Koman’s piece about Analee Newitz, who thinks the only reason people worked on TCP/IP or open source projects like 386BSD or Apache was to facilitate access to porn. Figures she’s booked with O’Reilly – I suspect this reflects their inside view on women in technology loud and clear. As I put it to Richard: “Hey, so the open source movement has finally got a woman speaker – but instead of a real woman developer or researcher they’ve got a girl talking dirty. Wow! How enlightened they are… However, this strange exhortation to love porn has nothing to do with the real reasons for why new architectures and design in technology are developed, nor does it speak to the motivations of the developers. Just because pimps and johns are ready to exploit any technology at any opportunity doesn’t mean it has anything to do with innovation, provides any value to society, or has any lasting impact.”
“I doubt we’ll soon see porn queens getting Nobel prizes, writing books of merit, or developing new solutions to problems of hunger, poverty, and injustice. But we will see lots of opportunists jump on the bandwagon as technology changes our society, proclaiming themselves as the “true” innovators as they gull the rubes. This hucksterism has always gone on. After ten thousand years of civilization, it’s amazing anyone sees this for anything less than some oddball carnival sideshow – briefly entertaining, somewhat freaky, and definitely unimportant.”
And that’s why it’s tough to be a woman in Silicon Valley. For every serious woman in business, technology, and investment, there are fools ready to say and do anything for their 30 seconds of Internet fame, and a huckster ready and willing to exploit them. While the Analee’s of the world come and go, it’s time we showed how annoyed we are – using our money – drop a line to O’Reilly telling them you didn’t buy the Perl book and come to an open source conference to hear a woman talk about porn. You bought the book and came to the talks because you want to hear about the tech. Man or woman, demand they book real technologists who love open source. Don’t settle for anything less.