Iconic Gender Discrimination Case Not a Lost Cause

The California state court's jury rendered its verdict denying Ellen Pao her gender discrimination case against her former employer.

Pao is a US lawyer who worked for Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, LLC, a venture capital firm based in San Francisco’s Silicon Valley. She filed a case against Kleiner Perkins in 2012, arguing that she was subjected to discrimination on account of her sex.

According to Pao’s claims, Kleiner Perkins has fostered a male-centred culture and it was the firm’s practice to hold all-male weekly ski outings and dinners. Further, Pao said the firm reserved back seats for its women employees during conferences. She said that Kleiner Perkins did not like the gender discrimination complaint she filed and thus fired her.

Counsel for Kleiner Perkins argued that Pao was not discriminated against but was dismissed due to her incompetence.

The trial of the case began in February 2015 and lasted for 24 days. On March 27, 2015, the 12-member jury, which is equally composed of men and women jurors, said that it was not convinced Pao was subjected to gender discrimination by Kleiner Perkins.

But while Pao may have lost her case, commentators have nevertheless suggested that her actions would serve as an inspiration for Silicon Valley’s women who comprises the minority of the tech hub’s workers. Latest data suggest that about 96 per cent of senior investing partners at firms like Kleiner Perkins are men and that there is an increasing gender-gap in the area. 

Pao said: “I have told my story, and thousands of people have heard it. If I’ve helped level the playing field for women and minorities in venture capital, then the battle was worth it.”


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