Silicon Valley is a Meritocracy, According to Rich White Men

History is written by the winners. A long time ago, I had a best friend whose father was a Vietnam Vet. I asked him if he killed anyone. Only bad people, he said.

Nobody ever thinks of themselves as the bad person. The winners just live to tell about it.

Not only do people universally think of themselves as good, they also believe themselves to be smart. Cue Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter and Square:

Success is never accidental. No accidents, just planning; no luck, only strategy; no randomness, just perfect logic. –@jack

Nevermind Jack’s privileged upbringing. Those in power call Silicon Valley a pure meritocracy because they want to believe they earned success through tenacity and wit and dashing good looks.


So the losers should think, Gee, I guess I’m just not as smart as Jack Dorsey. I deserve to be slinging code as a low-level developer with a fraction of a percent of his net worth.

Somehow, the less-successful don’t go home and dismiss themselves as morons. They, too, believe in their own sheer brilliance. In fact, they’re so smart that they totally would have succeeded except The Man was holding them down. In a recent interview, Silicon Valley expat Shanley Kane calls the Valley: “a sexist and racist wealth distribution mechanism that relies on cronyism, corruption, and exclusion to function.”

Yeah yeah, the same can be said for Wall Street, politics, Hollywood, or any high-stakes industry. Or low-stakes industry: Academia is a politicized old-boys’ club and those souls are grappling to earn minimum wage.

Silicon Valley is totally sexist unless you Lean In like Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer. Silicon Valley is totally a meritocracy unless you’re a minority who isn’t getting funded.

Maybe Silicon Valley isn’t really binary. Maybe Silicon Valley is a little of everything, just like the rest of the world.

And maybe the world isn’t totally fair, but whining is unlikely to make it more fair. And until we come up with a way to make the world inherently fair, maybe the best we can do is try to make the most of our own merits.

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