A female venture capitalist has lost a high-profile sex discrimination case that shone a spotlight on the “boys’ club” culture of Silicon Valley.
Ellen Pao, who worked as a junior partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, had accused her former employer of passing her over for the position of senior partner while her male colleagues were promoted.
After more than two days of deliberation, the jury of six women and six men on Friday found that Kleiner Perkins had not acted unfairly or unlawfully and that gender had not played a part in the company’s decision not to promote her.
Ms Pao said she filed the case as she “wanted something to change” in the industry, where sexism has become so pervasive it has been likened to the Wall Street of the 1980s.
The 45-year-old told the San Francisco Superior Court how she was excluded from an all-male dinner with Al Gore, former US vice president, and felt “very uncomfortable” hearing male guests of the firm talking about pornography on a private jet.
She was given menial tasks to do that were below her pay grade, “in order to embarrass her”, her lawyers had argued.
She also testified that one male partner was “relentless” in his pursuit of her and cut her out of email chains and meetings when she ended the affair upon discovering he was married.
After the verdict, Ms Pao told the courthouse that people around the world had reached out to her and told her that they had stories similar to her own.
“If I’ve helped to level the playing field for women and minorities in venture capital, then the battle was worth it,” she said.
Well, given that the jury found out that they’d done nothing wrong I’m not all that sure how much leveling has been done there.
And do you know what? I might fire a senior manager who pursued more junior colleagues for sex. But I certainly wouldn’t promote someone without the wit to work out whether a sexual partner was married or not before they became a sexual partner. It’s not as if this is a random meet in a nightclub after all, it’s easy enough to ask around at work if your boss is married or not, no?