The Real Housewives of Silicon Valley

Update 3/20/2015: Le Sigh. Apparently the show is going on, but focusing on “fabulous” black women business owners in the Valley. The production company is iTV (@ITV)and the casting agency is WaterCooler. Feel free to contact them directly about the show.

Update 3/19/2015: The production company decided NOT to pursue the show thanks to voices of the community and our allies. Their response in the side note. The fight is over… for now.

I knew it was only a matter of time before I would receive an email like this from a casting agency.

Greetings Kathryn-

We are working with a major production company to develop a series about
powerful African American women in the tech space. Whether you own a
lucrative business or a new start-up, we are looking for strong leaders
with a passion for success. Are you known in your industry for your
over-the-top personality and unconventional approach to business? Do you and your friends celebrate your successes by enjoying the finer things
in life like five star restaurants, luxurious vacations, and high-end
shopping sprees? We’re looking for the African American female movers
and shakers of the tech industry.

The ideal candidates are African American female business owners with
dynamic businesses — and huge personalities to match! We are looking to
connect with stylish, hard-working women in the tech industry who want
to showcase their fabulous lives both in and out of work, and show what
being a boss is really all about.

The fact that this is a even under consideration is problematic and shows that folks behind this don’t understand the definition of being a “boss” in the start-up world. A boss in this world is someone who has successfully exited a company (either via IPO or acquisition) and received a solid amount of cash (well into the millions) in the process. There is no black woman who fits this description. If this show happens, there probably never will be.

Even if we expand to the larger tech community and take a liberal view of “power”, the number of powerful black women in tech can fit on a single hand. Shellye Archambeau isn’t bringing an entourage of “weave-ologists” to TechCrunch Disrupt. Ursula Burns doesn’t have time to do a walk and talk at the Stanford Shopping Mall.

Through #ProjectDiane, we know every black woman startup in the country and, as one of the leading companies in this space, digitalundivided knows a large percentage of black women in the overall tech world. With less than 30 black women raising $100,000 in revenues and less than 1% of the employees at major companies like Google and Facebook identifying as black women, the sample to draw a cast from is extremely small.

The casting agents would have to cast the show from folks whose connections to the tech world are tangential at best (mostly bloggers) and it’s from this group that general opinions of black women in tech will be formed. Let that sink in for a minute.

To those who might consider participating in a show like this, I beg of you to put your ego to the side and think about the impact this will have on the larger community of black women in tech. Yes, it might (stress: might) be beneficial to those of you with fashion/beauty related blogs, but it will have a profoundly negative impact on the ability of any black woman to be taken remotely seriously in tech. It would underscore that you are, in fact, not tech at all. It won’t translate into any significant amount of sales for your company and, unless you consider hosting parties at Vegas nightclubs speaking engagements, it won’t translate into any position of prominence in the start-up world.

For a founder, this show will guarantee you will not raise any funds for your start-up from a real investor. Tech is a world where billionaires drive Prius and Chevy Volts during the week, and save their Ferraris for weekend race tracks, as to not draw too much attention to themselves. A “fabulous” black woman founder going to a meeting in a $3,000 weave and carrying a $5,000 bag, at a time when we’re trying to get these same billionaires to invest a tiny amount in diverse founders, feeds directly into the stereotypes that exist about black women.

The thing about reality television is that entertainment is derived from conflict. Because TV is two dimensional, in order for the conflict to “pop” it has to be amped up 1000%. This means whatever conflict you have in your life will be amplified. You will be asked to do things that go directly against your moral character in order to create a compelling storyline and to stay relevant on the show. If you don’t believe me, just watch how morally conflicted Cynthia Bailey is on Real Housewives of Atlanta.

No serious investor would want to invest in a founder that is in a constant state of conflict.

The sad (very sad) fact is this show is going to be produced no matter what I say and the production company will find black women to participate because there’s a number of people who want the validation of being on television. These, “thirsty”, people will attached themselves to whatever industry, category, or person who can help them become famous. They know nothing about tech, but everything about narcissism