Peter Thiel Announces 2011 '20 Under 20' Fellows, but Why So Few Women?

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Meet Peter Thiel's Fellows: a handsome selection of the finest innovators under 20 years old. And by handsome, we mean 18 of them are boys, two of them are girls. But is anyone really that surprised of the ratio? Probably not. (Back to that later). Thiel's 20 Under 20 were selected based on a rigorous criteria, and while there were over 400 applicants to Thiel's program, which debuted earlier this year, only 20 of them made the final cut, winning $100,000 and a two-year tenure with the foundation's network of masterminds. In exchange, of course, for their resignation from Harvard, MIT, Yale, and the rest of the Ivy League brigade.

"The Fellows are a tremendous group of young people who are going to advance the frontiers of knowledge, shake up staid industries, and change the world," said Thiel in a press release.

Based on the roster (a staggering list of whiz kids who make the average human being feel like a worthless piece of shit; a dude who scored perfect on the SAT five times is probably the "dullest" on the list), "tremendous" doesn't begin to explain their past achievements, and with $100,000 heading their way, college is now a thing of the past for the 20 fellows.

Thiel's initial aim with the program was to acknowledge the rising costs of higher education, an institution he himself finds unnecessary in a self-motivating world, and in turn promise his fellows money and mentorship if they dropped out -- or, as the website states -- "stopped out." (Because, you know, "dropping out" is so Middle America.)

"Tomorrow will not take care of itself," Thiel continued "In order to solve vexing problems and increase the quality of life for people everywhere, the world's economy needs continuous scientific and technical innovation from outstanding creative minds. I'm looking forward to helping the Fellows become the next generation of tech visionaries."

The list of fellows selected includes Jim Danielson, co-launcher of Makt Systems LLC, a start-up that commercializes his research and design (he also electrified a Porsche 924S), Darren Zhu, a researcher in the field of molecular spintronics fabrication, therapeutic drug design as well as synthetic biology who plans on dropping out of Yale sometime soon, not to mention the only two females on the roster: Eden Full, the 19-year-old founder of Roseicollis Technologies, a solar energy start-up that currently provides electricity to two villages in Kenya, and Laura Deming who was enrolled at MIT when she was 14 and has plans to commercial anti-aging research.

But the question still remains: Why so few girls? It seems almost like a backhanded slap to herald innovative freedom, then neglect to uphold an appropriate, fair ratio for the selected fellows. Almost like a cocktease of superiority sorts, as in, "Sure! We'll let a couple of chicks into this shindig and call it a day."

When contacted, Jonathan Cain of the Thiel Foundation likened the lack of female fellows to a general disproportion outside the fellowship. "For whatever reason, there don't seem to be women and girls in the science and technology field. I think that the two (female) fellows are going to inspire more girls to go into science and technology -- they've got a great track record."

We might not have matriculated to MIT when we were 14 or broken the sound barrier just after exiting the womb like some of the winners have, but we know bullshit when we see it: Two girls out of 20 just isn't enough.

[atimm@villagevoice.com / @avenyc]

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5 comments
Man
Man

"on a rigorous criterion"

Love the site ! keep up the good work !

ShenandoahIsAwesome
ShenandoahIsAwesome

The only person to decline the fellowship was a girl, as a moderately relevant aside.

Shenandoah
Shenandoah

My kid is one of the two girls. I always told her not to EVER depend on her gender for anything related to work or scientific achievement. Never use gender as an excuse. And never use it in a legal sense to crowbar your way into scientific and business domains that have traditionally been dominated by males. At the top level of the market, and absent state interventionist laws, no one gives a flip about your race, gender, nationality, religious background, etc. All they care about at the top level is: Can you do the work better than anyone else we could choose. So if you do that, I told her, guys will compete like crazy to hire you, fund you, give you stock options and generally make your working environment as frictionless as possible so that you can focus on pursuing your mission. She got it.

Now I learn from her. I met a lot of the other Fellows. Most of the applicants were guys. Maybe it's testosterone, maybe it's hundreds of millions of years of evolutionary sexual differentiation that's expressed in myiad interconnected intermolecular bio-loops, whatever. If girls want it, it's there. Instead of complaining about the lack of girls, I got a lil advice for you gals. If you want to achieve big things: Shut up, get up early, do the math, learn to write, do the math, skip the teen parties and sleepovers, read lots of books, do the math, then start looking around for opportunities and when you notice one with the potential to catapult you much further toward your really huge, sci-fi visionary-longer-term goals, go for it... with everything you've got... with every fiber of your being. If you're afraid of failing and looking stupid, listen to Madonna's 90's hit "Get up Again, Over and Over." Look forward to failing. Learn to deal with it early. It's one of those things that only hurts if you let it hurt. Failure is success's greatest Mentor. Learn to embrace risk. Eat risk for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Make risk your best buddy or girlfriend. Familiarity with risk is the only way to learn how to handle it competently. Can't learn it by studying it. So start taking scientific and entrepreneurial risks right now. The earlier the better. Then keep taking them on. Find a passion and pursue it relentlessly. I'm not talking about makeup or boyfriends. What sort of scientific or business idea with the potential to change the world gets you really excited. Might be your passion. Get after it. Don't worry about the how. Just stay focused on the long term vision. One exception never, ever stray beyond ethical bounds for any reason whatsoever.That's it gals. Now hop to it. A few of you can do it. It's hard but know what, it gets harder. Sure tastes good, tho. Cheers,Lazy Dad

The Voice of Sanity
The Voice of Sanity

And also very few vegans, southpaws, quakers, and children of indigenous South Pacific heritage were included in the list as well.

Sigh...It's nonsense like this that makes the Village Voice less and less relevant to the world today.

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