Ellen Pao knows a thing or two about discrimination in the Silicon Valley tech industry. She experienced it firsthand and sought justice through the California civil courts. Then she wrote a book to tell the world about the way women who work in a typically male-dominated industry are systemically treated.
Pao spent six years working for Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in the capacity of a managing partner’s chief of staff and as a junior partner. She claims her former company was viewed as “one of the three most powerful venture-capital firms in the world.”
The competitive atmosphere of the male-dominated industry was in full force. Pao was sexually harassed by a colleague who was later promoted and responsible for giving her a series of undeservedly negative performance evaluations. She also found that her progress at the VC firm was stymied, her projects poached and she was repeatedly passed over for promotions.
Eventually, the negatives outweighed any positive reasons to remain working for a company where she was targeted for failure. Still, she gave the firm an opportunity to act on the obviously toxic work environment. In her 2012 email to the firm’s managing partners, she laid out her case for “substantive changes” to be made to protect her from the ongoing ostracism of her colleagues and management. Barring that, she asked for a golden parachute that was as valuable as the one given to her harasser — approximately $10 million.
Pao’s request was denied. She sued and lost. Her reputation, work ethic and even the status of her marriage was dragged through the mud and put under a glaring microscopic lens.
The eight-figure settlement she didn’t get would have been coupled with a restrictive non-disparagement contract. Instead, she shared her story in her book and co-founded a nonprofit to give other women a path to success in the tech industry.
If you have been subjected to on-the-job sexual harassment and workplace discrimination here in California, you can fight for justice in the civil court system.
Source: The Cut, “This Is How Sexism Works in Silicon Valley My lawsuit failed. Others won’t.,” Ellen Pao, Aug. 20, 2017