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Think there's a lack of women on HBO's 'Silicon Valley'? It's just reflecting real life

Suzanne Cryer as Laurie Bream in HBO's
Suzanne Cryer as Laurie Bream in HBO's "Silicon Valley"

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HBO's satire "Silicon Valley" has returned for its fourth season and, with it, the five guys who comprise the fictional tech start-up Pied Piper.

The two female venture capitalists are also back as regular characters, but aside from them, the presence of women is still pretty sparse. But how accurate is it to the real Silicon Valley that the show satirizes?

To find out how the gender politics in the HBO comedy compare to the real tech world and how they compare to Hollywood, The Frame contacted two women who are in a position to know a thing or two.

Kara Swisher is the executive editor of Recode, host of the podcast "Recode Decode" and a consultant on the series.  Suzanne Cryer is an actress who plays Laurie Bream, one of the venture capitalists on the show. 

They spoke with the Frame's Darby Maloney about the women of the real and the fictional Silicon Valley and if women have it better in Hollywood.

To hear the story click the blue play button at the top of this page.


SUZANNE CRYER: They've taken a fair amount of heat for the amount of women on the show. But the reality is, with two women in series regular jobs on the show, they are already far outside of the norm of Silicon Valley.

KARA SWISHER: I've been covering Silicon Valley since the dawn of time. Since the early 90s. So I think it's perfect. I think they really do - you know what they do? It's sort of gentle mockery but it's based in fact. There's always sort of a smart woman around - and should be more smart women around, but there aren't as many because it's dominated by men.


SC: Laurie Bream is different than most female characters that you'd see on TV because she's completely analytical. The way the character was written was very, very specific. And when I read it I thought, I'm not going to do my hair for this audition. I'm not going to wear makeup. I'm not going to wear clothes that show my body. And I am not going to make eye contact with anyone that I'm reading with, or the camera. Because I felt that she was a certain kind of person - and you can draw what ever conclusions you want about that. She doesn't like to be touched. She doesn't like to look at people. But I was scared because I thought, Well they're either going to hate this or it'll be what they're looking for.

It's extremely, extremely hard for a woman to go into an audition in Los Angeles and allow herself to not present herself in her best light. It's very hard to go in without makeup and hair. Even when you're playing a beaten-down housewife on CSI: Miami, you still use every hair piece in your bucket and 17 pairs of false eyelashes.


KS: The way male characters talk about women is dead on. They're a little bit objectifying them, at the same time they're sensitive to their objectifying language. So they're aware of what they're doing but it happens just the same anyway.

SC: Part of the way that [Laurie Bream] is the way she is on the show is that she's wired that way. And part of it is, she has created a protective wall around herself, to insulate herself from some of the inherent sexism that she knows she's going to meet. So I think some of it is calculated on her part.

KS: You know one person came up to me recently and said, How do you get more women in tech? I'm like, Hire them. How about that? It's something the community talks about and then does nothing about. So it, in a lot of ways I suppose it's better than most of the world, where they just ignore it completely. They give a lot of lip service to diversity and then when the numbers come out, they're exactly the same. Mostly white, mostly men.


SC: It's much better for us in Hollywood than it is in Silicon Valley. I mean Silicon Valley is really - there's such a small percentage of women. When you look at a big action film - if you compare action films, they're like Silicon Valley, where there is one chick smiling and waving on the side while the men are driving the tanks down the road. But I do think that the level of scrutiny that you're subjected to is very similar. Female VCs and female founders of companies in Silicon Valley, they say a lot of times it's enough for a guy to be hip and daring to get himself funded. But women have to create a profit stream and have to create so much more of a projection of, like, a solid business. That's scrutiny and that lack of faith is certainly felt by all actresses. Most of women in Hollywood feel that they do need to present themselves to be sexually attractive all the time because god help you if you look over thirty.

​"Silicon Valley" airs Sunday nights on HBO. To get more content like this, subscribe to The Frame podcast on iTunes.

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