The closely watched gender discrimination case of Ellen Pao v. Kleiner Perkins, her former employer, has ended in a clean win for Kleiner Perkins. At least in the courtroom. Kleiner Perkins, in case you’re not familiar with it, is a major technology industry venture capital firm based in Silcon Valley. Ellen Pao is a former partner who said that she was discriminated against and eventually fired because of her gender. Here’s the NY Times’s summary of the facts.
After a four week trial Kleiner won the battle. The question is whether, in the court of public opinion, it won or lost the war. Think about this perspective from Liz Gannes of Re/Code:
Consider the optimistic estimate of venture capital, as presented by a Kleiner Perkins expert at the trial, that six percent of investors are women. That’s simply terrible. VCs are the powerful funding sources behind the technology that helps define our modern lives and they should better represent the people who use that technology.
But that was true before the trial. From the onset, Kleiner Perkins’ public image was battered by Pao’s lawsuit, and the venture capital world had a terrible record on including women.
So the battle is over for the moment. We haven’t seen any word about a possible appeal, although it’s still early.
Whether to fight or settle is a question that confronts companies in almost every case, employment law or involving any other area of the law. Time will tell whether Kleiner made the right choice in defending as it did.