In what was described as the most widely observed lawsuit in Silicon Valley, the former executive at venture capitalist company Kleiner Perkins, Ellen Pao’s allegation of gender bias and sexual harassment was dismissed by a jury of 6 men and 6 women on Friday, 27th March as reported by Los Angeles Times.
In the $16 million suit, Pao alleged that Kleiner Perkins had passed her over for promotion and excluded her from meetings after she accused a senior partner of sexual harassment.
The six man, six woman jury ruled in favor of Kleiner Perkins, who had argued that Pao was not fired because she was a woman, but because she was divisive and bad at her job.
“[She] didn’t want to play for team KP. She wanted to play for Team Ellen,” Kleiner Perkins’ attorney said in court.
Now the interim chief executive at Reddit, Pao testified that she and other women were purposefully excluded from business dinners with Kleiner Perkins investors, including Al Gore.
Silicon valley has long being accused as a redoubt of white males and a counter cultural hub for diversity where the prevailing national ethos in the United States is diversity in the workplace. Diversity has become so much a hot button issue that technology giants like Google and Microsoft have been addressing this issue for many years in their recruitment and personnel policy.
“Men in VC firms are breathing a sigh of relief and women in tech are feeling defeated,” said Melinda Briana Epler, chief executive of Change Catalyst, a San Francisco organization that supports female entrepreneurs. “A lot of hearts clearly sank after hearing the verdict.”
“We can infer from this vote that the jury believed Kleiner Perkins’ defense that she was a non performer and that the episodes of derogatory behavior by men toward women wasn’t enough to explain why she didn’t excel,” said Debra Katz, a Human Resource attorney with Katz, Marshall & Banks. “In a sink-or-swim environment, she sunk… This is a disappointing result because it clearly emboldens companies to maintain glass ceilings with impunity.”