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Assessing The Ellen Pao Verdict


The most-watched trial in Silicon Valley has come to an end. Ellen Pao sued her former employer the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, claiming that systemic gender discrimination meant she was denied for promotions and ultimately fired. But yesterday, the jury voted in favor of Kleiner Perkins, clearing them of all claims. Here's Ellen Pao speaking after the trial.


ELLEN PAO: If I've helped to level the playing field for women and minorities in venture capital, then the battle was worth it.

RATH: Davey Alba of WIRED has been following the trial. So have you talked with anyone in Silicon Valley about what happened and how even the loss for Ellen Pao might help level the playing field?

DAVEY ALBA: Well, the general sentiment in the Valley is that the case would have been this landmark case that could have sent deeper reverberations if she had won. But in the end, it still has blown wide open these subtle biases that women deal with all the time in the workplace and more so within the Valley. So it still has meant something. It's still been this game changer.

RATH: With a sense that it could lead to more lawsuits like this?

ALBA: Well, it actually has sparked a couple of lawsuits already. There are two that have come in the wake of Ellen Pao's suit. One from Facebook - a Facebook employee - and another has been filed against Twitter. And they are trying to raise it to a class-action suit, so that could have even more of an impact.

RATH: So the jury votes were not unanimous. What do you make of the breakdown?

ALBA: What was interesting was, you know, this was a very diverse jury - people from all races and it seems all walks of life, just from what we know of the range of jobs that they have. There were two jurors that elected to speak publicly after the whole thing was over.

There was one white male who works as a machinist. He said that the thing that really stuck out to him was the performance reviews and going through them sort of chronologically. To him, he said it seemed that Pao's reviews had criticisms in the same areas, whereas the other reviews they looked at - the criticisms changed or dropped off in certain areas. And Pao's stayed the same, especially when she was an investing partner.

Another juror who was an African-American woman said that the case had resonated with her quite emotionally. She voted yes to all of Ellen Pao's charges. And she said that in the end, she hopes that people who are thinking twice about maybe speaking out - hopefully their minds won't be changed by this case. And she urged the public to speak out if they feel that they've been wronged.

RATH: Davey, in that clip that we played of Pao after the verdict, she said - talked about leveling the playing field for women and minorities in Silicon Valley. Do you have a sense of how race - Pao is of course Asian-American - how race played into Pao's experience in the courtroom and at the firm?

ALBA: It's definitely a consideration that, you know, she's Chinese - it may be worth noting that the two lawsuits that followed shortly after, the plaintiffs are also Asian-American.

RATH: These are the Twitter and the Facebook lawsuits?

ALBA: Yes, that's right. It's hard to tell. I'm sure that that played a role in how she was treated within the firm, as well as her being a woman. But it's hard to, you know, determine whether that actually were substantial motivating reasons for the way Kleiner Perkins treated her, and at least to the jury it wasn't.

RATH: That's Davey Alba. You can read her coverage of the Ellen Pao trial at wired.com. Davey, thank you.

ALBA: It's great to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.