It was the trial that transfixed everyone, especially those interested in or affected by gender discrimination in corporate and venture capital culture. And last week, it came to a decisive end — former Kleiner Perkins junior partner Ellen Pao's gender discrimination lawsuit was rebuked by a San Francisco jury Friday, who ruled against her on all four claims. So, after this intensely scrutinized legal saga and all the attention its brought to issues of gender in Silicon Valley, what's next for Ellen Pao?
The decision's set off a huge amount of discussion about the male-dominated culture of venture capital, the presence of discrimination in the workplace, and of course, how easy (or hard) it is to prove such things. Make no mistake, we all heard a familiar slate of criticisms and claims against Pao during the trial — hard-elbowed, uncooperative, cold, intimidating, you know the sort. Basically, things could be true (and given the hyper-competitive culture of Silicon Valley, likely are true) of many high-level professionals, but often seem to be perniciously leveraged against assertive women.
In any event, however the trial did or should have gone, Pao's time at Kleiner Perkins now out of the spotlight and back in the rear-view mirror, and all eyes will be on her future career.
So, what are Ellen Pao's days going to look like going forward? Well, at present, a lot like they have for a while — since late 2014, she's been the interim CEO of a company you've probably heard of: Reddit, anyone? She took over from outgoing CEO Yishan Wong in December, having held the number two spot for a couple years prior.
Admittedly, it's unclear how long she'll be kept on in that capacity. Her title is still officially "interim" CEO, though that doesn't necessarily mean she'll be replaced — stop-gap options at the top do sometimes catch on for the long term if things shake out the right way, and with the soaring amount of publicity she's received as a result of her lawsuit, you'd be hard-pressed to find a higher-profile woman heading up such a major hub of internet communication and culture.
Sadly, though, that culture can be pretty damn bleak at times. As Kari Paul, of Vice's online tech publication Motherboard, observed Saturday, one price of Pao's loss in the courts has been her name getting smeared all over the very website she's in charge of, with some Reddit commenters reacting with characteristically sexist glee at her defeat. For example:
Girls, you're giving us more and more reason not to hire you everyday. From the lawsuits to the missed work from pregnancy and paid maternity leave it's just a bad deal. And you wonder why the government has to force us to hire you. Ya know we used to just pay men a lot more money and wives didn't have to work but I guess that's barbarism and misogyny.
My, what a heady analysis. Knowing that you're running a site with users so hostile to you can't be a very tolerable feeling. You're welcome to call me thin-skinned if you like, but I certainly wouldn't care for it.
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.
Basically, whatever she ultimately decides to do is largely up to her, and as none of us are privy to her plans, this is clearly a "wait-and-see" type situation. And while it's entirely up to her, there's really only one thing I hope — that she isn't done speaking out.
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