IT culture is so ignorant about how society works that what would be satire in other contexts is actually how most IT people think. IT people in general are not exactly experts on how people and society work, yet too many individuals in IT like to make bold, confident, and unsupported claims about meritocracy.
Vivek Wadhwa of TechCrunch writes:
Is the Valley deliberately keeping these groups out? I don’t think so. Silicon Valley is, without doubt, a meritocracy. In this land, only the fittest survive. That is exactly the way it should be. For the Valley’s innovation system to achieve peak performance, new technologies need to constantly obsolete the old, and the world’s best techies need to keep making the Valley’s top guns compete for their jobs. There is no room for government mandated affirmative action, and our tech companies shouldn’t have to apologize for hiring the people they need. But at the same time, without realizing it, the Valley may be excluding a significant part of the American population that could be making it even more competitive. False stereotypes may be getting in the way of greater innovation and prosperity.
“Meritocracy” means “a society or social system in which people get status or rewards because of what they achieve”. If some people get status and rewards partly because they are white and male, then the system is not a meritocracy. Such a system would have a racial and gender bias, just like every other industry.
“Meritocracy” is not a synonym for “highly competitive” or “subject to natural selection“. A population can be subject to both natural selection and artificial selection; the presence of one does not exclude the other. The fact that there is natural selection for a specific set of (functional) traits does not eliminate the possibility that there is artificial selection for a different set of (superficial) traits. If some individuals are given seed money because they are white and male, then there is artificial selection for the superficial traits of whiteness and maleness.
If there are “false stereotypes” that are “getting in the way”, then these are examples of race and gender bias, just like in every other industry. It’s called implicit bias. Affirmative Action is about keeping track of implicit bias in hiring. It is not about hiring people to fill race and gender quotas, which is illegal. If you feel that an industry with mostly white men looks more meritocratic than an industry with more women and people of colour, then you have an implicit bias. You unconsciously believe that white men are superior to women and people of colour.
You keep using that word—meritocracy. It does not mean what you think it means.