Maybe don’t ask that lovely young woman at your tech company’s holiday party about ZigZag conversion in Java. She may profess to be tight with your firm’s most-talented software engineer, but the truth is, she probably couldn’t code her way out of a paper bag.
She’s there for your viewing pleasure, and maybe a little chit chat.
As Silicon Valley seethes with sexual harassment scandals, tech companies are seeding their holiday parties with paid models, according to a new report.
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“Olya Ishchukova, chief executive officer of Models in Tech, says she frequently rejects company requests for cleavage and short-shorts,” Bloomberg reported Dec. 7.
“When a client recently asked for Pink Panther-themed latex bodysuits, ‘I pretty much explained to him that this is not what we do—and that could actually hurt his business’ if the public found out,” Bloomberg reported.
Models in Tech is one of several agencies who told the business-news site that a “record number” of tech firms are “quietly paying $50 to $200 an hour for each model hired solely to chat up attendees.”
The CR8 Agency, for example, has a job scheduled for the weekend of Dec. 8 that will see CR8 send 25 women and five men, “all good looking,” to hang out with a virtually all-male staff from a San Francisco gaming company, the company’s president told Bloomberg.
“The company, which she wouldn’t name, has handpicked the models based on photos, made them sign nondisclosure agreements, and given them names of employees to pretend they’re friends with,” according to Bloomberg.
CR8’s president, Farnaz Kermaani, said she visits startup clients before accepting their business, to scope out the scene and help ensure her models are safe.
“If somebody is creepy toward me, and I’m the owner of the company, I can guarantee they’ll be creepy to the models,” she told Bloomberg.
“Silicon Valley doesn’t have the best reputation.”
The Bloomberg article makes oblique references to Facebook and Google, and also refers to “one of the largest search engines in the world.” Facebook said Dec. 7 that it never hires so-called “atmosphere models.”
“Anyone … we hire has a server or other staffing role,” said spokeswoman Nora Chan.
Google did not immediately respond to questions about whether it hired models for events.
Holiday parties have become a flashpoint in controversy over sexual harassment. A prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist was alleged to have pawed the leg of a former Uber executive at the ride-hailing giant’s 2014 “Roaring 20s”-themed holiday bash. A defender famously offered what became known as the “pony defense,” saying Shervin Pishevar couldn’t have groped the woman because he had a drink in one hand, and the leash to a pony he’d brought to the party in the other. Pishevar, through his crisis-management professional, denies the allegation, and others made by women against him.
The claims about Pishevar follow a series of high-profile sexual harassment allegations centered on Silicon Valley tech companies and leading figures, including Uber and venture capitalist Justin Caldbeck.
Photo: Models at a party (Pexels)
Tags: holiday, models, parties, sexual harassment, Shervin Pishevar, Uber