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Trouble in Silicon Valley: The Ellen Pao Gender Discrimination Case

One of California's biggest legal cases right now (at least in terms of media coverage) is that of Ellen Pao, former venture capitalist with the well-known Silicon Valley firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Pao, currently interim CEO at Reddit, claims discrimination against KPCB on account of her gender. But as Elizabeth Weise reports for USA Today, Mary Meeker - KPCB partner and "one of the most powerful women in venture capital" - recently testified that she did not see any gender discrimination at KPCB.

He Said, She Said

As cases like these often go, it is he said, she said. There is likely very little in the way of "hard evidence," of the kind you might see in other kinds of cases (some personal injury cases, for example), which can present a major - though not necessarily fatal - challenge in trying and winning them.

In an earlier story, Weise reported that Pao's former mentor John Doerr testified that the "number of women in venture capital is pathetic," but generally defended his firm's treatment of women. But in the first salvo of the case, Pao's attorney in his opening statement claimed that KPCB has a "systemic" gender discrimination problem when it comes to women, and that KPCB promoted very few women from junior to senior partner over its 40 year history - the exact promotion that Pao apparently had been gunning for.

Broader Discussion

USA Today alone has 14 separate stories about the Ellen Pao case. This shows in part the impact Pao's case has made in the venture capital industry. More broadly, it is now part of the overall conversation about women and their treatment in the workplace.

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