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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