The sensational gender-discrimination case that has rocked Silicon Valley ended after a second round of jury deliberations. The jury ruled against Ellen Pao on all counts, finding that her gender was not a substantial motivating factor for her former employer, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, not to promote her to senior partner. The jury also found that retaliation for her lawsuit was not a substantial reason for her termination from the firm.
Earlier today (March 27), the jury said it had reached a verdict, but the judge ordered the jurors to deliberate again after a poll revealed only eight of the 12 jurors had voted against Pao on the count regarding whether she was terminated in retaliation. California state courts require agreement from at least nine jurors to reach a verdict.
Pao, who filed her lawsuit in 2012 and currently serves as the interim CEO of the social message board Reddit, claimed that a male-dominated work environment made it difficult for women to advance at Kleiner Perkins. She said the firm retaliated against her after she brought to light an affair she had with partner Ajit Nazre. Nazre eventually was fired after Kleiner Perkins learned he had also made unwanted advances toward another female partner, Trae Vassallo. Pao sought $16 million in compensation for lost wages.
Throughout the trial, Kleiner Perkins painted Pao, who received negative marks in performance reviews, as an underperformer who was difficult to work with. Kleiner Perkins also maintained that it is a female-friendly workplace, having promoted more women than other firms. Pao, who said she was denied board seats of companies the firm invested in, portrayed Kleiner Perkins as a boys’ club that tolerated men’s misbehavior while women were held to different set of standards. “If I did talk, I was being too competitive or sharp-elbowed. The behavior that we exhibited was not acceptable [for] us, but it was acceptable for men,” Pao said on the witness stand earlier this month.
“Today’s verdict reaffirms that Ellen Pao’s claims have no legal merit,” Kleiner Perkins said in a statement. “We are grateful to the jury for its careful examination of the facts. There is no question gender diversity in the workplace is an important issue. KPCB remains committed to supporting women in venture capital and technology both inside our firm and within our industry.”
Pao also released a statement:
I want to thank my family and my friends for your love and support during this very challenging time. I’m grateful to my legal team for getting me a day in court, and to everyone around the world, male and female, who have reached out and expressed support in so many different ways, who’ve told me that my story is their story too, and that they’re grateful to me for telling my story. I have told my story, and thousands of people have heard me.
If I’ve helped to level the playing field for women and minorities in venture capital, then the battle was worth it. Now’s the time for me to get back to my career, to my family, and to my friends. Thank you all very much.