Ellen Pao may have lost her gender discrimination and sexual harassment case against Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers. She nevertheless claimed a victory by exposing the gender bias in the tech investment community and venture capital marketplace.
On Friday, March 27, following three days of deliberation and four weeks of testimony –much of which proved embarrassing for the male-dominated culture of the VC firm – the jury rejected all of Pao's claims. Even so, she believes the publicity and social media coverage will bring about the changes needed to kick down doors and allow more women to move into the VC ranks and boardroom.
Pao filed her $16 million lawsuit about three years ago, stating that she had been discriminated against and punished for complaining about a colleague whom she claims pressured her into brief affair. Pao, now working as the interim CEO of Reddit, left the firm in 2012.
For its part, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers said the charges were without merit and that Pao "twisted facts and events in an attempt to create legal claims where none exist."
Following Friday's verdict, Pao stood on the courthouse steps and gave a short 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 to express support in so many different ways, and to tell me that my story is their story too, and their gratefulness to me for telling my story. I have told my story, and thousands of people have heard it.
"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."
After her initial statement, Pao took to Twitter to thank her supporters and again express hope that her legal battle will help women looking to work in the venture capital industry.
"While today's outcome is a disappointment, I take consolation in knowing that people really listened," she wrote in one Tweet. In another, she noted that the publicity of her case will prove valuable for women in the future.
"Because of social media and live reports, the problem of gender discrimination in venture capital has received attention around the globe," Pao tweeted.