The Practice of Hiring Models to Attend Parties in Silicon Valley Continues
Despite the endless string of harassment and discrimination scandals, Silicon Valley gaming and tech companies are still hiring attractive women (and some men) to mingle with staffers at holiday parties. In fact, it is happening more than ever! Several agencies have reported that a “record number” of tech companies in California have paid anywhere from $50 to $200 an hour for models to “chat up” party-goers.
Local modeling agencies, which work with giant Silicon Valley tech companies as well as much smaller businesses and the occasional wealthy individual, are apparently getting a ton of requests. For a typical party, scheduled for the weekend of Dec. 8, Cre8 Agency LLC is sending 25 women and 5 men, all good-looking, to hang out with “pretty much all men” who work for a large gaming company in San Francisco, says Cre8 President Farnaz Kermaani. The company, which she wouldn’t name, has handpicked the models based on photos, made them sign nondisclosure agreements, and given them names of employees to pretend they’re friends with.
It seems crazy such a practice exists and it’s disappointing to see companies treating women this way. But it is happening and happening this weekend.
But for Farnaz Kermaani, the agency’s president, scoping out a potential client is a definite prerequisite for business. “If somebody is creepy toward me, and I’m the owner of the company, I can guarantee they’ll be creepy to the models,” she added. “Silicon Valley doesn’t have the best reputation.”
Another agency, Models in Tech, rejects potential clients that only want to hire “pretty faces.” CEO Olya Ischukova added that the three-and-a-half-year-old company trains “brand ambassadors” to represent the companies they’ve been hired to satisfy. The now-Los Angeles based company has its models do such task as checking in guest or running a raffle. Ischukova continued by stating that gaming companies are an exception to the other clients Models in Tech have.
“The video gaming industry is a big one for those parties where they invite female models to hang out with those, they call them ‘geeks’ — people who are into games,” said the CEO who has a master’s degree in public relations from Ulianovsk State University in Russia.
An article in Bloomberg hinted at possible fingers pointed at Facebook and Google, the former was quick to denounce any participation.
Facebook said Thursday that “atmosphere models” are never hired by the company. “Anyone … we hire has a server or other staffing role,” said Facebook spokeswoman Nora Chan. The Bloomberg report did state that one of the clients was known as “one of the largest search engines in the world.”
Silicon Valley, like the rest of the country as of late, has been slammed with sexual assault and harassment controversy. Shervin Pishevar, a venture capitalist known in the area, was said to have caressed an Uber executive’s leg at a Roaring 20s holiday bash that the company threw. The “pony defense” was made infamous at this time as Pishevar defender claimed that the man could not have rubbed the woman because he held a cup in one hand while holding a pony’s leash in the other. The venture capitalist denied the allegations and the ones following made by other victims.
Another problem presented in Silicon Valley is the lack of women in the tech field. For example, Google is said to have 31 percent women in its workforce with only 20 actually working in tech spaces.
Adriana Gascoigne, CEO of Girls in Tech, feels that the hiring of these models prevents the progress made on getting more girls in tech. “It objectifies the opposite sex,” Gascoigne added. “This is a decision made by the executives in approving the costs of the party. It’s a decision that trickles down and hurts all parts of the business. Women don’t feel safe. They’re not going to feel productive and comfortable in that environment. It’s going to make them want to leave.”