Media observers are claiming that Ellen Pao’s loss in her $160 million gender discrimination claims against her former venture capitalist employer Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byer means a dark future for women in Silicon Valley. But women already control 36 percent of small businesses, hold 50 percent of all management positions and account for 60 percent of college students. With rising economic power, women seem destined to eventually dominate Silicon Valley and much of American business.
Given that San Francisco proudly advertises the Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library as a tourist attraction, it is safe bet that the political prism of what “gender-bias” means in “The City” does not tend to have much in common with the opinions of rest of America.
The newscasters for the Bay Area’s listener-supported Public Broadcasting System affiliate appeared to be in mourning that “such a great opportunity” for emancipating genders was vanished when a jury of six women and six men found she was not a discrimination victim. In hopes of gaining some insight regarding the damage of the legal ruling, they held a “pity-party” the evening following the jury decision titled, ‘Female Executives Disappointed, Surprised by Ellen Pao Verdict.”
Four senior female executives were interviewed at the San Francisco home of Fran Maier, a tech entrepreneur known for co-founding Match.com. The women commiserated on the challenges they had faced over the years navigating Silicon Valley’s male-dominated venture capital world to secure financial backing for their businesses. They each expressed frustration regarding how little had changed.
Maier angrily blasted Silicon Valley because “it’s really not a meritocracy.” She saw the trial as unmasking the carefully crafted fraud that tech provides opportunity to all. She was furious that despite social media being predominantly about women; Twitter said “they didn’t think there were any qualified women to sit on their board?”
“I’m wondering what kind of message does it send to those that are in technology right now?” She added, “Did it mean women bringing gender bias cases should expect the outcome that it’s not necessarily discrimination?”
“I wanted to put my money on Ellen and her case, but it’s really hard to know what goes on in a jury, and in a trial,” said Maier. “I was really disappointed. But I can’t say I was 100 percent surprised.”
All of this high-minded concern regarding the future of women and Silicon Valley ignores the fact that juries are usually composed of regular folks that are only paid $15 per day. More than 36 potential jurors were interviewed in the Pao case, before a panel of 5 men and 7 women, plus 4 alternates, was selected. Jurors included a physical therapist, a jail nurse, a painter who used to work in zoos, and a public transit operations manager.
The jury must have been baffled by the elitist world of Ellen Pao, who graduated from Princeton graduate and went on to earn Harvard law and business degrees. Pao applied for a job in the “greed-is-good” private equity world of Kleiner Perkins and was assigned to work directly for John Doerr, one of the most famous venture capitalists on the planet.
Despite making $380,000 a year at Kleiner Perkins, while one male colleague made almost $100,000 less, she filed a lawsuit claiming to be a gender-bias victim and demanded $16 million in actual damages and up to $144 million in punitive damages.
It must also have been rather perplexing to the jury that Pao was claiming to have been financially victimized by Kleiner Perkins, while undoubtedly making more money now by currently serving as the interim Chief Executive Officer at the Reddit.
The era of women being unable to compete with men is basically over. According to a study called ‘Sources of Economic Hope: Women’s Entrepreneurship’ by the Kauffman Foundation, women are 60 percent of college students, and half of all workforce managers are female. Women also now own 36 percent of all small businesses.
As women entrepreneurs have captured larger percentages of American business, about 31 percent of female entrepreneurs have raised start-up money from outside “angel” investors and 14 percent have secured cash from venture capital firms.
As far as long-term damage to the reputation of Kleiner Perkins from Ellen Pao’s lawsuit, Rachel Fierberg and her female executive buddies might overcome their disappointment if Kleiner Perkins would agree to invest $5 million in Dwell.