Silicon Valley wouldn’t be as successful as it is now if it wasn’t for the huge amount of capital made available by venture capital firms like Kleiner Perkins. This is a fundamental fact. Technology is great, innovation is wonderful. However, if there’s not enough capital to fully invest in and develop such technology, it’s not going to go far. Venture capital and innovation are like two peas in the Silicon Valley pod. Unfortunately, just like with any other industry, it’s very easy for companies to develop a specific company culture that may not keep up with the times.
The United States has demographically changed radically over the past 40 years. Unfortunately, in some fields, like the legal field, the medical field, or in this case, the venture capital field, it seems that the ethnic composition lags far behind the modern ethnic and sexual composition of the American workplace. This is why it’s not a surprise that the anti-discrimination lawsuit lodged by Ellen Pao against Kleiner Perkins is turning a lot of heads. It seems that there is still a lot of room for improvement, as far as sexual sensitivity and hostile work environment prevention are concerned.
Are people being overly sensitive? Are people reading too much into things? These are going to be issues that will be raised again and again, but the more we raise it, the more we risk being distracted from the general reality we should be looking at. The general reality is that Silicon Valley’s ethnic, sexual, and sexual orientation composition has dramatically changed. This is the time for affirmative action programs and other more proactive approaches to offset the likelihood of provincial or outdated mindsets from infecting an otherwise dynamic venture capital industry.