The Real Meaning of the Ellen Pao Verdict

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By Jacob Maslow

pao imageThe verdict is up. A California jury this past Friday ruled that former Kleiner Perkins partner Ellen Pao did not suffer from gender discrimination. As a result, they found this in favor of one of the biggest venture capital firms in Silicon Valley. Ellen Pao filed a sex discrimination case against Kleiner Perkins saying she was not promoted and that there were other adverse job actions against her due to her gender. While that particular claim was adjudicated against her, another claim of retaliation is still being deliberated on. The judge rejected the verdict on that and told the jury to deliberate again on whether Ms. Pao was retaliated against because she brought suit against the company in 2012.

Folks, gender discrimination is a big deal. While a lot of the more conservative market analysts would roll their eyes at claims of bias on the job, it is a very big factor. There is no denying it. What this means for Silicon Valley is that the old days are over. It only takes a strong light at a previously dark corner to change how people behave in that corner. While Kleiner Perkins may have escaped legal liability, the rules of the game have changed. A lot of people are now looking at Silicon Valley and the venture capitals sector in particular, and have certain expectations. That little world has been turned upside down and people are on notice that the larger world has certain expectations regarding how women move up in the halls of power there and how people from different backgrounds are promoted.

The reality is that the vast majority of the partners in venture capital are white males. This is inescapable. Expect a lot of changes. It is not going to happen overnight, but definitely expect a lot of changes because Silicon Valley has this massive spotlight pointed at it, thanks to the Ellen Pao case.

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