On Monday, Ellen Pao took the stand in the sex-bias trial against her former employee Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a Silicon Valley company. In her testimony she accused the firm of gender discrimination and retaliation after she and three of her colleagues have allegedly been victims of harassment.
In her first testimony, Pao described how, after being involved in a short personal relationship with one of her co-workers, she started being excluded from important company meetings in response to her breaking off with him. She also accused the behavior of her male colleagues, that according to media reports included conversation about porn stars and a trip to the Playboy Mansion aboard a private jet. In her portrayal of Kleiner, one of the most prestigious Silicon Valley venture capital firms was described as a men-only club where women were excluded from parties.
Pao, a 45-year old Harvard law graduate, demands that Kleiner pay her $16 million in damages. She is claiming she was fired in 2012 after she complained she was being passed over for a promotion on gender basis only. She admitted having an affair with a male colleague, but says after she broke it off the man retaliated by excluding her out of emails and meetings. Her repeated complains about the matter to the company’s Human Resource department, including to Ray Lane and John Doerr, had no result. Pao also testified she felt humiliated for not being invited to a men-exclusive party that took place in the same building she was living in.
In the official statement Kleiner Perkins released for the media, the company says Pao was an employee who had a hard time getting along with colleagues and performed poorly at her job after she became a junior partner in 2010. The firm’s lawyers have been describing Pao as a chronic complainer who made a habit of demanding sole credit for work done by an entire team and frequently twisted facts and circumstances. In regards to the allegations about the offensive conversation that offended Pao, attorneys explained the men responsible were not even Kleiner employees.
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is one of the biggest venture-capital companies in Silicon Valley, having had Amazon and Google among its former clients. However, Ellen Pao’s lawsuit fuels the older discussion about gender equality in investment companies. Studies released nationwide found women are underrepresented in the technology and investment sectors, and the disproportion is amplifying. Babson College in Massachusetts indicated female employees only occupied 6 percent of the partner-level positions in venture capital firms in 2013, a little over half of the same 1999 figure. Kleiner Perkins showed numbers proving that 20 percent of the partners at the firm are women, and said it is looking to increase the percentage. Its lawyers are now working hard to undermine the credibility of one its former female partners in front of the jury.
Image Source: Business Report
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