Pando

Serena Schuler: TV has a responsibility to create role models

By Sarah Lacy , written on May 11, 2018

From The Gender Wars Desk

Earlier this year, the creator of HBO’s Silicon Valley got defensive about the idea that his cast isn’t diverse enough, and not for the first time. He told the Hollywood Reporter:

"I  don't think you do any service by pretending [Silicon Valley] is half  female or half black. And not to pin bouquets on ourselves here, but I  think we brought some attention to the gender imbalance by doing this  show."

Ahhh,  yes the all important act of “raising awareness.” Because before this  show, everyone thought that Silicon Valley didn’t have a fetish for  young, white, nerdy men at all. 

Forget  the accusations against the likes of Binary Capital’s Justin Caldbeck,  the 2017 dismantling of alpha-bro Travis Kalanick or positive trends  like Female Founders Office Hours and All Raise. We really owe this huge  cultural progress we’ve experienced in Silicon Valley (that has yet to  show up in the numbers) to…. Mike Judge not hiring women and people of  color. 

I  won’t break down all of my issues with that back patting response for--  um?-- not hiring diverse talent, because Refinery29 and others already did it pretty well earlier this year. 

A  young television writer and creator Serena Schuler has a different  point of view when it comes to television: Tell the stories that can  inspire things to be different. Because those stories do exist. Women  may only make up some 3% of CEOs of venture backed companies, but they do exist. And it’s possible, a story about someone overcoming even more odds than the typical startup founder just might make for more interesting television. 

Think of the role that television played when it comes to the gay movement, Schuler argues.  When Modern Family premiered in 2010, the Defense of Marriage Act was  still law. Three years later, the country’s tolerance shifted  dramatically. 

Several high-powered women in the Valley agree and have backed Schuler’s new proposed pilot called “Makeshift Society.”  It’s the story of a Silicon Valley UX designer named Alex who spurns  her bro boss’s advances, becomes an industry pariah, and winds up in a  co-working space where she amalgamates her own Silicon Valley crew with  those around her.  

In  the story Alex had always dreamed of starting her own company, but  never quite had the courage until she was pushed. Yep. Sounds like the  Silicon Valley I know: I took a newborn baby fundraising for Pando after  my job was giving away while I was in labor. 

Schuler  has talked to dozens of Silicon Valley women about their lives in  putting this show together, and is actively raising money for its pilot  production now. Getting any project this early off the ground is an  uncertain proposition-- like starting any new company. But it’s possible  telling our stories could actually merit more “bouquets” then-- uh--  ignoring us. 

We  invited Schuler on our podcast to tell us more about her journey and  her project. If you’re one of those actual women or people of color that  exist in the Valley, check it out at https://makeshiftsociety.com.