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Silicon Valley Tech Firms Hiring Models For Holiday Parties

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Glitz has always been a trademark of the holiday parties this time of year in Silicon Valley.

And while it has calmed down considerably since the wild pre-bubble days when Netscape, Yahoo and others tried to out do each other with themed gatherings and special appearances by rock stars, one trend has continued.

This holiday season, Bay Area tech firms aren't just inviting guests to their holiday gatherings, they are also hiring them. The only requirements are that they are young, attractive men and women.

To accomplish this goal, some high tech firms are hiring models to hang out and add glitz and glamour to their year-end soirees.

"I've been going to tech parties for years and there were some guests that I was a little bit suspicious about," Bloomberg tech reporter Sarah Frier told KPIX 5 while recalling a recent holiday party she attended. "I got a tip this year on a model who was being paid a $150 an hour to attend a holiday party for one of the bigger companies in New York."

In her research, Frier found models being hired by tech companies to attend parties for as much as $250 an hour to mingle with employees and pretend they were invited guests.

Frier said the ruse used to blend in the models can be quite extensive.

"In some cases, the models are given a specific name of an employee or a back story that they're supposed to comply," she said. "From there the models sign NDA's (non-disclosure agreements) saying that they'll never talk about what happens at the party."

Olya Ishchukova is the CEO for a company called Models In Tech. Her models help tech companies at trade shows to promote their products.

She told KPIX 5 she has turned down jobs for her models when it comes to parties.

"They requested to have models wear pink panther leather suits so I told them that this is something that we cannot provide," she said.

Diana Solatan, a tech entrepreneur who holds sexual harassment workshops, called the holiday hiring trend part of "the new Hollywood" mentality in the Valley.

"The things that came with Hollywood are now brought to Silicon Valley which is a lot of the glamour and the sexiness," she said.

Frier told KPIX 5 she sees the trend as a characteristic of a male dominated industry.

"This is a way that companies are trying to not only deal with the gender ratio at parties, but make sure that they retain these guys," she said.

Frier said model agencies have told her it's been a record year for tech companies hiring models.

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