In the Silicon Valley, there is a lot of questions regarding gender and possible discrimination when it comes to doing businesses with big technology firms. In a huge victory, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins was cleared in a gender discrimination lawsuit, which was brought on by Ellen Pao. Pao is a former employee of Kleiner Perkins, and she alleged that the firm did not give her a promotion, then they fired her out of the fact she is a woman. Pao then said in the lawsuit that Kleiner Perkins had retaliated against her, so all of these allegations were unfounded according to the jury’s verdict.
The jury took three days to come to the decision to clear Kleiner Perkins in this lawsuit, which focused a lot on the seven-year career of Pao at the firm. The trial itself took four weeks, in which both sides presented witnesses and emails, along with various documents to try to prove their side was the correct side. The testimony mostly focused on Pao and her performance at the firm, with the company stating the reasons why she wasn’t picked for the promotion, which had nothing to do with her gender. Pao claimed that men with less experience were given opportunities that she was not, which related to her being passed over on the promotions because she was female. Pao also talked about being excluded from all-male dinner parties, which makes sense considering she is not a man. Pao als said that she had to hear about pornography and was given inappropriate gifts that were lewd in nature.
Most of the defense Kleiner used was about trying to get the jury to understand Pao was not a great employee, and was very hard to work with. Witnesses took the stand from the firm to contradict nearly everything Pao claimed, also talked about how Pao would always exaggerate to try to turn ants into mole hills. The company also said that Pao was not good at building expertise, was not a good coworker, and always was getting into arguments with co-workers. Pao tried to sell to the jury that she was the perfect employee who was a leader and always willing to go out of her way to help others within the company.
This was a huge case for Silicon Valley, because there has always been questions surrounding the mostly male-dominated field. The technology world and the investment firms have always been a more male oriented business, so all of the witnesses and documents gave an insight into how the inner workings of businesses like Kliener Perkins goes. Kliener Perkins is one of the most successful investment firms in Silicon Valley, so hearing both sides of this issue allowed the public and media an almost unheard of access into the structure of the company. The investment firms and similar businesses in general have had issues with gender discrimination in the past, and questions loom over inequality in Silicon Valley.
A juror in the trial, Steve Sammut, came out after the verdict was read to tell the media and public how the decision was reached. The main issue for the jury was that every year, Pao had the same issues in her reviews, and to the jury this meant Pao was not working on herself. The jury felt that Pao had failed to rectify the problems and issues the company had pointed out to her, such as learning how to work more harmoniously with coworkers. The jury then looked at other employee review sheets to compare the so-called discrimination going on, and found that the other employees did not have the same items on the review year-after-year. The jury felt that Pao was basically not trying her best to overcome the problems the company felt she had, which showed her lack of willingness to change and become a better team member. Overall, this is a huge victory for investment firms like Kleiner Perkins, because it shows that business in Silicon Valley is including women, but that they don’t get a free pass either when it comes to performance.