Silicon Valley and the Gold Rush: Women Wanted

Silicon Valley needs more women. Are the tides changing?


Women in tech is a growing conversation in the academic and professional world. The conversation stems around the lack of female representation in tech especially in areas such as computer programming, being the CEO’s, and data analysts. However, this phenomenon needs to be more broadly examined. Women are missing in all aspects of the industry, from programming to human resources departments. Women, however, could easily fit into this environment. It has been done in history before, just look to the gold rush for reference with women traveling for marriage, and to make it rich themselves. The dichotomy of the tech boom and the gold rush seems unparalleled, however women fit in with each other in similar ways.Women because of certain brain types were able to make a place for themselves in the gold rush and are now doing the same with this twenty first century tech boom in places like Silicon Valley.

Women make up a greater portion of those going to college, and yet many don’t pursue careers in tech afterwards for having been marginalized by stem fields in general. However the tech industry desperately needs more women no matter their major. Evolutionary psychologists like Kanazawa state that their are two types of brains. The “S” brain and the “E” brain. The “S” brain is referred to as the systematized brain or the male brain where the “E” brain is the the Empathy or female brain. Both sexes can be either despite these names given. Kanazawa states that historically our female ancestors were “E”brains and the men were “S” brains. Kanazawa claims that women looked after the children and didn’t need to be systemic like the men because the men were the ones who did systematic operations like knowing animal tracks, and then using this knowledge to track and kill their prey to provide for the clan. The men needed to be systematic and detached from their activities such as hunting and killing and not as empathetic since they weren’t the ones primarily raising the children. However this brain differentiation isn’t enough to explain the disproportionate amount of men to women in tech. In tech there’s a lack of women in any of their departments from human resources,to marketing, to software engineers, causing a great gender chasm.

Many “E” type brains would be perfect in the tech industry, to break up the “boys” club that is the tech industry. For example in the top tech companies they are averaging around 30 percent of employees being women according to However the numbers don’t convey the whole truth. At Microsoft for example women only make up 16.6% of the technical roles such as programmers, and analysts. Then of this 30 percent, 23 percent hold leadership roles like management and executive positions. They are grossly outnumbered and underrepresented. The tech boom, is ever growing with the continual innovation in how consumers use technology in their everyday lives. Type “E” brains would bring in new perspectives that many companies are lacking when they are controlled predominantly by men. Women can fulfill roles in any department from the tech sector to the human resources sector. Women whether they have an “S” brain or an “E” brain need to fill the gender divide in tech companies. The diversity in Silicon Valley is atrocious, however the playing field for women is beginning to look-up thankfully. This can be seen echoed in history with the gold rush as well.

In an article entitled #TechTuesday: 4 Reasons Why Its Awesome To Be A Women in Tech published on the website Women 2.0 further examines the current advantage of being a women in tech. These reasonings range from female centric startup ideas led by women who know these needs, to understanding the strife of other minority groups in tech, and the discrimination faced. Women are just as capable as handling the tech industry as guys, in different ways potentially. This is demonstrated by the tenacious women of the gold rush and the different roles they took on.

The era of technology is upon the world. With this historic event came the mass migration of people with starry eyed dreams of hitting it big with the next great idea to places like Silicon Valley in California.  You have success stories such as the conglomerate that is Apple which was started by a few guys in a garage in Northern California, the most well-known name that came from this group is Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs and his partners are now multi- billionaires. Then there’s Mark Zuckerberg who dropped out of Harvard and created Facebook. He is now worth 47.billion making him the worlds sixth richest person according to  However with high risk,high reward situations you also get high risk, high loss situations as well. Nine out of ten startups fail, so ninety percent of those who come to find success find failure. However many try and try again which shows the resilience of the tech industry. This is parallel with the gold rush boom of the late 1800’s and the trials and tribulations women faced.

The gold rush was started by the discovery of gold in Sutter’s creek in Coloma,California in 1848. From this discovery marked a mass exodus to California in the search of a better life. In 1848 alone 80,000 migrants from all over the world traveled to California. In the book “They Saw The Elephant” by JoAnn Levy,consumers see the gold rush through the lens of mostly women. However Levy discusses how people came from all over by land and sea in huge quantities to strike it rich in the west. From this detailed account, readers can see parallels between the tech boom and the gold rush in the willingness to move in search of hitting it big financially or in finding love.

Besides the mass migration to find work, some women in today’s society also came out to California to search for a potential husband, particularly a rich man. This is many women’s best chance seeing that the men in the tech industry were hitting it big financially. Today in Silicon Valley, there are more men than women in the tech industry. To combat this many male techies are hiring transnational matchmakers to help them find love. For example, on the website one women details her experience with the start-up dating ring. This was crowdfunded, meaning money was donated to the matchmaking company by investors and in return for the amount they pledge, they get something in return. For example, those who donated a certain amount of money got to meet at a social with the sixteen girls the company hand selected and flew into San Francisco. This occurred because of the disproportionate amount of women in both places; there are more men than women in Silicon Valley and in New York women greatly outnumber guys. Techies have lots of money to spend and little time to search for dates, so this is a hugely lucrative industry. This phenomenon was seen during the gold rush as well.

Women traveled from all over the United states to the West coast in order to find a suitable husband during the gold rush as well, because of the gender disparity. The news of the potential riches in California traveled fast and people flocked in herds to the said promise land. In the book “They Saw The Elephant” by JoAnn Levy, readers are told through primary source documents like diaries and letters that women had numerous choices and options out west. This also taps into the field of evolutionary psychology. Evolutionary psychologists like Kanazawa believe men seek beauty that is best for reproduction and women seek men with status to provide stability. The women in the gold rush wanted to have financial stability and the best way was to get a husband who struck it rich mining for gold or somebody who opened a prosperous business like a hotel for boarders.The men in California needed women so they weren’t as picky for if they wanted to continue their lineage they needed a mate. This is why so many women came to the West. One example is Sophia Eastman, an adventurous women from New England who wanted to be a teacher out in California. Levy in her book goes on to detail how Eastman got multiple marriage proposals. On page 115 of the text it states “Sophia wrote Maria and Isaac of her safe arrival-and that she had already refused her first marriage offer: ‘[He] proposed having me marry him, &  going to the mines; but this I think shall never do.If he is not able to build a house and give me a good comfortable home then I had better not marry him.’” Sophia knew she could get more marriage offers so she didn’t settle. We see this as a growing trend in today’s dating society as well. Too many choices has led to many women marrying later after dating many different people. These women in the gold rush could be picky and pick somebody they found both emotionally and physically attractive. This is now being echoed in the era of technology. Women will search for the best reproductive partner and the means by which these women finds husband may be different they all are looking to have the most competitive offspring.

Women are trying to break into the tech industry through different means just like women during the gold rush. For example during the gold rush, women were gamblers, con-artists , barbers,washers,seamstresses,hoteliers, entertainers, miners, and cooks. One of the most lucrative industries in the gold rush were women who could cook. In the Levy text on page 92, the passage states “a woman,if she could cook at all, she could get $16.00 per week for each man that she cooked for, and only cooking required to be done was just to boil meat and potato”. Simple but fast way to make money,so many set up shop and just cooked for the men who mined and they began to quickly rack in the profits. Women came and tried to find employment and riches wherever they came. Many were entrepreneurial and took up many roles. Another common job was being a hotelier. Woman would have property and then they would sell rooms in their place to miners who would pay them handsomely to live there instead of camping which wasn’t as comfortable. Woman made use of their typical “e” brains and saw ways in which a niche was needed in these mining populations in California. However many were systematic and methodically calculated how to take of themselves with minimal loss and high return financially.

Just like woman in the tech era today, these women in the gold rush are at a numbers disadvantage,however they found different niches they could be successful in and capitalized on this. Silicon Valley, better get ready. Girls are here and they with ancestral cues such as sometimes having an “E” brain are ready to take Silicon Valley by storm. They did once already to the west coast during the gold rush. Like the great Beyonce once said ” Who runs the World? Girls!”



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