Silicon Valley’s On Going Existential Gender Dynamics Crises: Ellen Pao vs Kleiner

It is a bit of a “he-said she-said game” in the Ellen Pao case against Venture Capital Firm Kleiner – Silicon Valley’s most recent gender discrimination case. Silicon Valley, over the past decade, has become notorious for it’s patriarchal corporate culture, a place where women are constantly at odds with it’s male dominance. The Valley has become analogous to a fraternity scene, but for grown men. A culture where the movement for egalitarianism and the push for moving women out on the “second class citizen” in corporate cultures has perhaps been an agenda placed on the back burner.

Ellen Pao, a previous partner of Kleiner, had sued the V.C. Firm under allegations of unprofessional gender dynamics in the work environment. Her attorney argued that although Pao had many successful efforts in the firm, including investments with RPX – the patent company – along with twitter investments, she had little-to-no traction for upward mobility, hitting a lower than normal “glass ceiling”. Although Pao’s case shines light, once again, on how women are still minorities in Silicon Valley, faced with blatant discrimination due to a product of the culture’s lake of exposure to gender diversity, the Venture Capital firm, in the end, was cleared by a California Jury for all claims brought against it. Even claims that involved more personal matter of Pao being terminated from her position at the firm – thought to be a result of a retaliation against Pao for her suing the firm in 2012 – was also cleared.

Although there was no major triumph for Ellen Pao personally, there is some pay off. With the more gender inequality cases brought out of the wood-work in the V. C culture, perhaps there will be a larger, more sustainable push for equality and integrity within Silicon Valley corporate world.

Unfortunately, the scene got a little messy for Pao’s case when the jurors brought up the affair Pao had with former Kleiner partner, Ajit Nazre. Pao claimed Nazre used business trips as opportune courting situations, arguing that she was more of a victim of his habits than a romanic interest. Whether or not it was appropriate for her to get involved with a married business partner who she was told had already separated from his wife, is news for the tabloids. I believe the coverage on this case is most important in the fact that it is not the first, and most likely will not be the last given the culture’s history. Therefore, it is a symbolic slap in the face for the Silicon Valley to wake up and get their act together when it comes to gender dynamics. Or perhaps I live in a fantasy world believing everyone to be educated about gender politics, human rights and to have read Simone’s de Beauvoir’s 1949 book “The Second Sex”. But no, in fact I’d be lying to myself if I said I truly believed this was reality.


Kayleigh Stack

Tech Blogger and Marketing Assistant