Silicon Valley Gender Bias Case in Jury’s Hands

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – It’s now up to a jury to decide whether gender bias at a Silicon Valley venture capital firm led to a junior partner’s firing, after attorneys finished closing arguments Wednesday.
     Ellen Pao’s lawsuit against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers has been closely watched in the Bay Area and across the world for its potential reverberations regarding employment practices and corporate culture in an industry often criticized as being dominated by men.
     Closing arguments in the month-long trial began Tuesday. Pao claims, among other things, that the firm didn’t promote her because she’s a woman and fired her because she brought the lawsuit in 2012.
     The trial has brought out accusations of a climate in which women aren’t invited to events, are pursued by married men and are subjected to inappropriate sexual discussions.
     But the firm defends its reputation as a leader in diversity, and maintains that Pao was fired not because of her gender but because she wasn’t good at her job.
     Lynne Hermle, attorney for Kleiner Perkins, continued her closing arguments today by spotlighting what she called consistent problems in Pao’s performance.
     Pao never improved her skills in “thought leadership” and entrepreneurship, and was not a team player, said Hermle, of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. She portrayed Pao as brash and constantly blaming others for her workplace problems.
     “At the end of the day, all the finger-pointing in the world couldn’t make Ellen Pao a team player, a great sourcer of investments or a thought leader,” Hermle said.
     But Therese Lawless, one of Pao’s attorneys, countered in her rebuttal that Pao was a “very good performer,” and referenced positive comments in Pao’s performance reviews.
     Lawless, of the firm Lawless & Lawless, called the defense’s arguments a “revisionist history” of Pao’s time at Kleiner Perkins, which began in 2005 and ended in 2012.
     “You are the conscience of this community,” Lawless told the jurors, advising them to let Kleiner Perkins know “that every employee that works hard and gives them what is expected of them deserves a fair and equitable workplace.”
     Pao is now interim CEO of Reddit. She’s asking for $16 million for lost and future wages, but could get much more if the jury awards punitive damages.
     
     Arvin Temkar can be reached at sanfran@courthousenews.com.

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