Silicon Valley likes to think of itself as a meritocracy, where they get the outsized rewards from venture capitalists and other angels of the market because they deserve those rewards.  They are chosen because they deserve to be chosen, because their specialness demands that they be chosen.

Except maybe not:

If someone was going to be really good at programming they would have found it on their own. Then if you go look at the bios of successful founders this is invariably the case, they were all hacking on computers at age 13. What that means is the problem is 10 years upstream of us. If we really wanted to fix this problem, what we would have to do is not encourage women to start startups now.

It's already too late. What we should be doing is somehow changing the middle school computer science curriculum or something like that. God knows what you would do to get 13 year old girls interested in computers. I would have to stop and think about that.

That is right, one of the people who chooses who gets a chance to win in Silicon Valley is son stupid as to claim that the only people who make good founders are people who have been programming since they were 13.  Oh, and of course that means no female founders are possible, because God knows that girls don't program at 13.

Graham, who runs the influential Y Combinator, is essentially saying that only people who fit narrow archetype are given the opportunity by venture capitalists to succeed in building a company. Poor and not exposed to programming until college?  Tough luck, kid, you should have chosen your parents better.  Minorities are disproportionately likely to be raised in poverty?  Sorry, kid, choose the melatonin level of your parents better next time.  Born with two XX chromosomes?  Sorry, it's just a well-known medicinal fact that chicks can't program.  Overcome that social norm after high school?  Sorry, honey, but you are the digital equivalent of spoiled milk.

This is not an isolated idiocy, either:

One study, conducted in 2010 by CB Insights, showed that only one per cent of venture-capital-backed founders were black; eighty-three per cent of founding teams were all white. From 2009 to 2011, per capita income rose by four per cent for white Silicon Valley residents and fell by eighteen per cent for black residents.

This is what discrimination looks like: the disadvantage of people based on unthinking, often unconscious prejudices that are very often not recognized as prejudices by the people spouting them.  Graham is why affirmative action is needed.  Without meaning too, without even realizing he is doing it, Graham is contributing to limiting the opportunities of people of color and women in one of the most important industries in the country.  Affirmative action helps prevent people like Graham from following their instincts into a world where significant portions of the population are locked out of opportunities.

Originally posted to angryea on Mon Dec 30, 2013 at 05:19 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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