SAN JOSE, Calif. (Ann Rubin/KTVU) - Call it the latest trend in Silicon Valley: companies sneaking models into holiday parties to make small talk with guests.
According to one Bloomberg Businessweek article, it’s happening in record numbers this year.
They're called "ambience models."
These are good-looking women and men paid $150 an hour to mingle.
Sarah Frier of Bloomberg said, "Maybe sometimes they'll be given an employee's name to say they're friends with. Other times they'll have to sign NDAs or wear a certain outfit to fit a theme."
Frier spoke to agencies sending models to a half a dozen parties this weekend alone, in some cases, 30 of them per event.
The tech companies, some big, some small, work in everything from gaming to virtual reality.
"So it's really an interesting phenomenon, especially the middle of all these harassment scandals and diversity issues that we've started to care so much about in the valley," said Frier.
At Halvorson Model Management, which focuses on Silicon Valley, they've received a few requests for this type of job.
They've turned them all down. The fear is that lines might get crossed if party guests don't realize the models are paid to be there.
"Are they getting hit on by people at the party? Is it there to solicit them or take them out on dates? We just don't know," Traci Halvorson said.
And while models have long been hired for tech trade shows, the agencies say this is different since the job is to make small talk, not pitch products. The practice does not come as a shock to some in the industry; however, others say it may alienate women.
"I'm not personally surprised. They can choose to do that and I can choose to go somewhere else that's how I feel about it," said Alison Crady, a tech designer.