Late last month, a jury ruled against a former partner of one of Silicon Valley’s most famous venture capital firms who claimed the she was discriminated against because she was a woman. Even though she lost her battle against the firm, the highly publicized case has drawn a spotlight to the pervasive culture of subtle sexism that exists in workplaces across the country today.
Ellen Pao was a former partner at the venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Ms. Pao alleges that she was excluded from business dealings, was unfairly passed over for promotion, and was eventually terminated because she was a woman.
Ellen Pao is being called by some the Anita Hill of today’s tech world. Like Hill’s trial, Pao’s case has drawn mainstream attention to the issue of sexual discrimination in the workplace. The discrimination Pao suffered was not the overt sexism experienced by Hill, but rather manifested as subtle jabs and the unconscious bias that so many women can relate to. What’s more, Pao’s case has sparked conversations about what sexism in the workplace looks like today.
Pao Testimony Causes Surge in Gender Discrimination Lawsuits
During the trial, Pao alleged that she and other women had been excluded from a work-related ski trip simply because they were women. She was also left out of a dinner meeting with former Vice President Al Gore because, as one partner joked to another, women were a “buzz kill.” Pao also said that she and another female executive were made to sit at the back of the room while the men all sat at the conference table. Moreover, she asserts she was forced to endure a plane ride in which her male colleagues discussed porn stars and rated the attractiveness of a high-profile female executive of another tech company.
Also discussed at the trial were Pao’s performance evaluations, which were vague and unspecific. Her performance was consistently praised, but she was chided for lacking chemistry with other partners of the firm. Additionally, she was criticized both for being too timid and too aggressive. As her lawyers pointed out, there were men who had the same character flaws on their performance evaluations, but they were still promoted.
Though the jury found none of what Pao described crossed into illegal territory, Pao’s testimony clearly resonated with women in and outside of the tech industry. In the weeks during the trial, there was a surge in gender discrimination lawsuits being filed, including against tech giants Facebook and Twitter.
Unfortunately, sexual harassment lawsuits are a common occurrence in the tech industry, however, they rarely go to trial. Most are settled quietly out of court, outside of mainstream media. Pao’s case shines an enormous spotlight on an issue that is most often only whispered about behind closed doors. She succeeded in highlighting the boys’ club culture that exists in Silicon Valley and in the venture capital industry in particular. The impact of Pao’s bravery is likely to inspire change in workplaces across the nation.
Philadelphia Gender Discrimination Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates Advocate for Women’s Rights in the Workplace
Discrimination in the workplace, whether overt or subtle, is always wrong. Only by taking a stand can change begin. If you believe you have been a victim of gender discrimination or sexual harassment at work, call the Philadelphia discrimination lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates. Our firm has been recognized as a preeminent employment law firm in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the fields of workplace discrimination and civil rights litigation. To schedule your confidential case review with one of our experienced and highly skilled Philadelphia discrimination lawyers, call 215-569-1999 or submit an online contact form.