Ellen Pao, Kleiner Perkins, & Sexism at Work
The lowdown: In a case that shook Silicon Valley, Ellen Pao, currently the interim chief of Reddit, sued her former employer for $16 million. The employer: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, one of the hottest venture capital firms out there. The case: Pao contended that she’d been held back and eventually fired from the firm due to gender-based discrimination. Kleiner Perkins argued that Pao just couldn’t cut it at the firm. In the end, Pao lost the suit.
The bigger picture: At a post-trial news conference, Pao commented on the outcome: ““If I’ve helped to level the playing field for women and minorities in venture capital, then the battle was worth it.” With all kinds of tech firms currently under fire for sexism, racism, and otherwise toxic discriminatory environments, hopefully this case will make companies see the seriousness of these kinds of allegations. Sexism often rears its head in ways that are hard to prove or even explain; already, the discussion around this case has brought Kleiner Perkins’ bad behavior into the light, whether it was technically illegal or not. As Annie Lowrey writes: “The idea is to force covert sexism to be made overt where you can, around the conference table if not at the ski lodge or the cocktail party. Only then can you stamp it out.”