'If We Don't Shine A Light On Inequities, Things Will Not Change'

Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images.
A San Francisco court ruled against Ellen Pao on all four claims of her gender-discrimination — handing a decisive win to her former employer in one of the most-watched gender bias cases of recent years. 

Pao, now the interim CEO of Reddit, was suing prominent Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, where she was a junior partner. She first filed suit against the firm in 2012, and the case went to trial in February of this year. 

Pao had two central complaints: that Kleiner Perkins failed to promote her to general partner based on her gender, and that, after she wrote a memo alleging gender discrimination, she was fired in retaliation. The jury — six men and six women — ruled in favor of Kleiner Perkins on all charges.

After her loss, Pao posted a series of tweets thanking her supporters — and expressing optimism that her story was heard on such a broad stage.
Advertisement

In court, Pao's lawyers painted an unflattering — if familiar — picture of a Silicon Valley VC firm: a toxic, aggressive atmosphere where women were marginalized and excluded from after-hours male-bonding activities, such as boys-only ski trips.

Lynne Hermle, a lawyer for Kleiner Perkins, said Pao was fired not because of her gender, but because she was a bad employee. "She wanted to play for Team Ellen," the lawyer said, according to The Guardian.

Pao's lawyers sought $16 million from Kleiner Perkins for lost income. That, in addition to damages, could have netted her over a hundred million dollars. 

Update: Late Friday night, the jury in the Pao trial miscounted its votes and was sent back for a recount. This post has been updated to reflect their final decision.
Advertisement