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Billionaire Financier Takes Stand in Gender Bias Case

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Billionaire Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr took the stand Tuesday in a high-profile gender bias suit filed by his former employee, a woman who once thought of him as a surrogate father.

Ellen Pao sued venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in 2012 for $16 million, alleging sex discrimination. The case went to trial last week.

Pao was hired by Kleiner Perkins in 2005 as chief of staff to Doerr, one of the firm's managing partners, who has led investments into tech giants like Google and

In her suit, Pao claims that she suffered a variety of abuses during her six years at the firm, including being denied a promotion and excluded from business activities because she's a woman.

"I don't consider Kleiner Perkins to be a firm run by men," Doerr testified. "We have many female partners."

Pao also alleges years of "retaliation" by colleague Ajit Nazre, with whom she had a brief affair that she later cut off. Though she reported the alleged harassment, she says the firm didn't take action.

On the stand, Doerr testified that Pao did come to him upset about her interactions with Nazre.

In an email to Doerr from 2007, Pao wrote: "I didn't want to bother you with these issues around Ajit, but I did feel it was important that someone know about it and make sure that he doesn't do the same to other people in the office."

She finished the email saying, "It's a real honor to be thought of as a surrogate daughter, and I'm sorry if I sometimes don't live up to the honor."

Doerr testified that he wanted to fire Nazre because of his behavior but that Ray Lane, another Kleiner Perkins leader, didn't want to.

Despite the allegations, the firm promoted Nazre in 2008. He was fired in 2011 after an investigation into another woman's claims of sexual harassment.

Doerr was one of the most anticipated witnesses in the trial because of his status in Silicon Valley, and because of his mentor-mentee relationship with Pao.

After Pao filed suit, Doerr defended his firm's track record of diversity in gender, age and ethnicity and denounced "false allegations" against the firm in a 2012 statement.

But Pao's attorney Alan Exelrod, partner at the firm Rudy, Exelrod, Zieff & Lowe, tried to show sexual bias by noting that Doerr had once described a successful female partner as a "mother" with two children, but hadn't done the same with a male partner who also had children.

And after interviewing a woman for a job, Doerr sent an email that said "her willingness to travel works, unless/until she becomes a mom."

Pao is now the interim CEO of Reddit.

Contact Arvin Temkar at [email protected].

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