In a trial that has captivated and examined Silicon Valley — with thumbs refreshing Twitter feeds at a fever pitch this afternoon — a San Francisco jury has found that Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, which stands among the most prominent venture capital firms in Silicon Valley, did not discriminate against Ellen Pao on account of her gender.
Pao, who is currently interim CEO of the website Reddit, was one of Kleiner Perkins' former investing partners. And so far, after a trial that has taken five long weeks plus three days of deliberations, jurors have found against Pao on all but one count — whether or not her firing from Kleiner Perkins in 2012 was in retaliation for her lawsuit.
As Forbes reports, total damages delivered to Pao could have been $160 million. But perhaps more importantly, the trial has been one that brought to the fore pivotal questions, such as: are women are excluded, treated unfairly, and harassed by men in Silicon Valley, a culture that purports to prize egalitarianism and meritocracy? “Kleiner Perkins has been acting entitled,” Pao’s lawyer said in closing, “It’s not taking responsibility for its culture, where men are treated differently than women, where men are promoted over equally qualified women, where men are allowed to behave in certain ways and are rewarded.”
As the website Fusion explains and predicts, "Pao’s case is rare in that it went to trial, rather than being settled out-of-court, but it will likely be the first in a wave of such claims." And, as others point out, last week a former Facebook program manager sued that company, alleging that she faced gender and race discrimination there. That woman, Chia Hong, is also represented by Lawless and Lawless, who represent Pao. And much has been brought to light by the scrutiny of the trial, from the ginormous salaries of Kleiner Perkins partners to their bro-y emails and private amenities.
Even if Pao had won, tech would still be toxic for women. This was just one battle in a very long fight that is just getting started.— Susie Cagle (@susie_c) March 27, 2015
Strangely, the jury has just been asked to deliberate again on the question of the fourth claim— retaliation — which, in a bizarre twist, they had mistakenly tabulated their response on. While for a moment it seemed to be a total victory for Kleiner Perkins, the final result. which yes, is likely victory for the firm and loss for Pao, is on hold. An update will arrive with that verdict from the jury.