Clueless in Gotham

Where did the New York media dig up that Silicon Valley gold-digger story?

Published April 11, 2000 4:00PM (EDT)

"Silicon Valley: Home to rich men, and the gold-digging women who want their money." That's the gist of a Page 1 article in Monday's New York Times about the disproportionate number of eligible bachelors in Silicon Valley -- and the poor women who just can't finagle a date with any of them. It is also the topic of a feature story in this month's "dot-com issue" of Harper's Bazaar. This new Wild West -- overflowing with coding cowboys who know how to make hay while the sun shines, and nary a wife in sight -- apparently fascinates the New York media.

"Sometimes, the troops of men strolling around downtown makes it seems like a Boy Scout reunion is in town," writes Evelyn Nieves in the Times. "And since this is also the land of the best educated, highest paid workers in the world, minting 64 new millionaires a day, single women in search of smart, successful men should be having a ball." Her article then goes on to describe the head-scratching phenomenon of why the girls aren't getting any.

"It's ridiculous," says Patty Beron, founder of, a networking site that maintains dot-com party listings and was mentioned in the Times article. "Women make money and they date -- often people they meet at these parties," which the Times described as "all about networking, not dating." Beron thinks the premise of the article was mistaken: "No one I know complains about not meeting people."

Besides being untrue, the article is insulting, says Sylvia Paull, founder of GraceNet, an entrepreneurs' networking group of more than 1,000 women who work in high tech.

"Silicon Valley has spawned hundreds if not thousands of female high-tech professionals, ranging from CEOs to senior executives, programmers, venture capitalists, marketers, publicists, graphic artists, recruiters and, yes, reporters," Paull wrote in a letter to the editor she sent to the Times on Monday. "I have no idea how these women go about meeting their mates, but neither does your reporter -- women high-tech professionals are totally ignored in your article, as if the only women available in Silicon Valley are kindergarten and elementary school teachers."

The Harper's Bazaar article, titled "Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire," limits its depiction of Silicon Valley working girls to "P.R. bunnies." In neither story is there any mention of female entrepreneurs. This irks Paull, who wrote in her letter to the Times, "It's unfair to have women portrayed as gold-diggers when many women today are responsible for creating the gold."

So, how did the Times fall into telling such a tale? Perhaps a clue rests in a new acronym tucked into Nieves' story. "The valley is a weird world, unto itself," she writes. "In this sphere, techies take their dogs, birds and pajamas to work, and being too busy for anything but becoming the next MOP (millionaire on paper) is as crucial to fitting in as Palm organizers and T-shirts."

MOP? We'd never heard of a MOP until we read it a few weeks ago -- in that Harper's Bazaar article. Describing one of the thousands of "wealthy" Silicon Valley bachelors who won't be wealthy until (and unless) his start-up goes public, Nancy Jo Sales wrote that he was "just a 'millionaire on paper' -- or, say, an M.O.P."

Looks suspicious to us -- but it still doesn't explain why the Times went after the women of Silicon Valley. Beron, however, has a theory: "New York is jealous," she says. "The gold-digger thing is old and tired. Women are making such great strides, on their own, without men. It's so insulting to say otherwise."

By Damien Cave

Damien Cave is an associate editor at Rolling Stone and a contributing writer at Salon.

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Silicon Valley The New York Times