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In a suit closely watched throughout the tech industry, Ellen Pao lost her gender bias case this afternoon (March 27) against the Silicon Valley venture capital firm of Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers. A jury of six men and six women announced the verdict shortly after 2 p.m.

In particular, females in the tech industry considered the suit a watershed because, they say, it drew attention to the discrimination and unconscious bias women face in the male-dominated tech industry.

According to Bloomberg News, Pao, a former junior partner of Kleiner, said she was unfairly denied promotions. Kleiner partners retaliated after she complained about alleged inappropriate behavior of a male colleague, Pao charged. Kleiner said she was fired because she argued with partners, lacked experience in entrepreneurship and deep expertise in technologies that Kleiner would tap for investment purposes.

Pao had asked for $16 million in compensatory damages plus punitive damages. According to Babson College research, the percentage of women in venture capital is only 6, down from 10 in 1999.

In the suit, many details emerged, such as Pao's boss saying she had "a female chip on her shoulder." Pao is married to a man whose hedge fund is bankrupt. Kleiner tried to enter that into the suit as a motivation for Pao, but was turned down by the judge, according to the New York Times.

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ImJustABill March 28, 2015 @ 3:40 a.m.

I have no idea if she was discriminated against or if she is just whining and grabbing for money. I think it would be almost impossible to prove discrimination against one person. I think it would be very difficult for anyone outside the daily workings of that firm to know if she was actually doing a bad job or if she was doing a great job and discriminated against due to gender. Even if she was doing a great job but held back from promotions what is the difference between gender discrimination vs. plain old back-stabbing office politics.


Don Bauder March 28, 2015 @ 9:03 p.m.

ImJustABill: The case was closely followed in Silicon Valley. A lot of dirt came out, but I didn't follow the case. Apparently, Kleiner proved to the jury's satisfaction that she was not or would not be a top-flight venture capitalist. Best, Don Bauder


ImJustABill March 29, 2015 @ 1:27 p.m.

Even if she WAS a top-flight venture capitalist who was unfairly kept out of the higher ranks of her firm, how can we differentiate between being unfairly kept out of higher ranks due to plain ol' office politics vs. being kept out due to her gender?

Maybe there's no moral difference between those 2 scenarios but I think there may be a legal difference.


swell March 28, 2015 @ 7:11 a.m.

Ellen and her husband 'Buddy' are Harvard educated and implicated in a number of financial scams. Her role up to now is unclear but there seems to be serious financial stress on the home front.

"Disgraced former hedge-fund operator Alphonse “Buddy” Fletcher’s broken promises are catching up with him.

A Manhattan judge has ruled that the 49-year-old investor owes his former law firm $2.7 million in unpaid legal bills.

Add that to the more than $140 million in court judgments and tax liens against the Harvard-educated fallen finance whiz and his fund, and you have one of the oddest Wall Street stories in recent memory." (more at: http://nypost.com/2015/02/18/case-builds-against-former-ny-hedgie-buddy-fletcher/ )

and from: http://www.richardbradley.net/shotsinthedark/2015/03/25/some-thoughts-on-ellen-paos-marriage/ ; "he’s a Harvard graduate, an African-American man, who went to Wall Street and tried to make a lot of money. He left his first job at the brokerage firm Kidder Peabody and promptly filed a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination. Like Ellen Pao, Fletcher charged that he was treated differently from the great majority of employees whose identity did not match his." ... "He is broke now, because he is not a financial genius, and there is ample suggestion that he is broke even though he siphoned money from his hedge fund ... "

  • and there is much more in those links. So, none of this proves that she is as rotten as he, but it seems that justice was served in this trial.

Don Bauder March 28, 2015 @ 9:07 p.m.

swell: The judge would not let much Fletcher material (if any) be introduced into the case -- wisely, I think. I don't think one can say that Fletcher's failures were Pao motivations. Perhaps they were, but could this be proved? Best, Don Bauder


swell March 28, 2015 @ 7:33 a.m.

This is fascinating. Some comments from: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/28/technology/ellen-pao-kleiner-perkins-case-decision.html?_r=0

"Even after being fired by Kleiner in 2012, Ms. Pao was paid $33,333 a month for the next six months, plus benefits and bonus." and "Ms. Pao is now interim chief of the social media news site Reddit."

I wonder whether the geek site Reddit is female friendly, or did they hire her because they needed a token woman? The reality is that Silicon Valley is difficult for women who seek technical or executive positions, and it's not entirely the fault of policy decisions.


danfogel March 28, 2015 @ 8:05 a.m.

According to the complain, Pao was offered the "opportunity" to stay on the payroll for 6 months plus receive an additional $200k in severance if she cooperated in transitioning her board duties to partner. She refused and was terminated 10 days later and received a lump sum payment of 5 months pay and no severance. Don't know about the "female friendliness" of Reddit, but Pao has been there for 2 yrs, after been what was described as “a formal and informal adviser to Reddit for more than a year", (at $600 per hour).


Don Bauder March 29, 2015 @ 12:34 p.m.

danfogel: No matter how one feels about the case, there are big bucks floating around Silicon Valley. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 28, 2015 @ 9:13 p.m.

swell: Only 6 percent of people in venture capital are women. Do you remember the former Harvard president, Larry Summers, who got into trouble questioning whether women can make it in high tech? He lost his job at Harvard and hasn't done well as an economist, either. (He HAS done very well financially, however, by being very friendly with Wall Street.) Best, Don Bauder


Carlos Becerra March 28, 2015 @ 9:05 a.m.

Another watershed case coming up soon.... where news agencies are liable for negative and inflammatory comments posted in there news feeds. Think Don Think.


Don Bauder March 28, 2015 @ 9:17 p.m.

Carlos Becerra: For most of my most of my 50-plus years in financial journalism, i have been a columnist, expected to state opinions, rather than a reporter. Many of my opinions are negative and some are inflammatory. Best, Don Bauder


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