Ellen Pao Speaks Out About Dropping Her Discrimination Lawsuit

Ellen Pao, former partner at investment firm Kleiner Perkins and former interim CEO at Reddit, has written about her decision to drop her appeal in her discrimination case against Kleiner Perkins. Pao lost her original trial earlier this summer, and filed an appeal, but has opted instead to pay Kleiner Perkins’ court costs and move on.

Her observations on the process are pretty keen and more than a little bit horrifying. Take, for example, what she remembers about juror selection:

“From the first day of trial, I saw how hard it was going to be to win when every potential juror who expressed a belief that sexism exists in tech — a belief that is widely recognized and documented — was not allowed to serve on the jury.”

She also details the tremendous resources Kleiner Perkins had and what those resources were able to get them – like expert testimony, protected documents, and a PR campaign. Still, despite the total financial lopsidedness of the trial, Pao was ordered by the judge to pay Kleiner Perkins’ costs – which just seems insane.

Pao also details the ways in which trials cannot help but become influenced by the media. She points out that before the internet age, it would be possible to turn off the TV and radio and not look at the newspaper. Now, though, it’s practically impossible to avoid the internet, as was demonstrated during her trial:

“My case continued for several weeks, and the courtroom and outside hallways were filled with reporters and photographers producing news stories, opinion pieces, video reports, liveblogs and tweets on a daily basis. One alternate juror in my case tweeted during the trial and deliberations, sometimes including a popular hashtag. And the judge himself admitted to reading headlines throughout the trial.”

All in all, it sounds like the justice system hasn’t caught up to the culture in which it exists, and that’s visible even in the cultural versus legal conceptualization of discrimination. Our culture is starting to understand that workplace discrimination is not always explicit, that it’s motivated by many factors, that it’s nuanced – but the legal system requires a clear and decisive example of discriminatory behavior that can’t possibly be taken as anything other than discrimination. It’s a high bar to live up to, and it favors the corporations who have a discrimination problem in their corporate culture.

Pao has decided that the courts aren’t usually the right place to hash out differences between a corporation and its employee. Instead, she’s opting for a more pragmatic approach to her advocacy for women and minorities in tech:

“I am optimistic that our efforts will drive change to improve the work situation for women and minorities. Personally, I plan to continue moving these issues forward by writing, investing and working in the technology industry.”


[Image via Getty]

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