Remember Ellen Pao? She's the gal who filed the $16 million dollar gender-bias suit against venture capitalists Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers that was supposed to blow the lid off of male-dominated Silicon Valley.
Ha ha! It took a jury lin 2015 only a couple of hours–after a two-month trial!–to find in favor of Kleiner on all four counts of Pao's supposedly landmark sex-discrimination suit. Pao had alleged that Kleiner had failed to promote her from junior to senior investment partner because she was a woman and had fired her in 2012 after she complained about discrimination against women at the Palo Alto firm. The New York Times reported that a majority of the jurors believed that Kleiner actually fired Pao because she wasn’t doing her $560,000-a-year job very well.
But the embarrassing jury loss–not to mention Pao's subsequent forced resignation as interim CEO of Reddit after she managed to alienate large segments of its user base–doesn't seem to have fazed Pao one bit. She's now back in the Valley with the same old claims about gender discrimination, "old-boy" culture, and general maltreatment of women in the high-tech world. This time, though, she's not bothering with actually getting a tech-related job. Instead, says Vanity Fair, Pao has reincarnated herself as a "diversity activist":
Nearly a year later, Pao is back in the spotlight, and she’s embarking on a new venture: Project Include, a nonprofit that will track the diversity numbers of different tech companies and report on the data over time, with the goal of making companies hold up their diversity commitments, according to The New York Times. Venture-capital firms will also be asked to participate, by checking in on their portfolio companies. “The standard mantra for every company on diversity statistics is, ‘We’re not doing well, but we’re working on it,’” Pao told the Times. “People don’t learn anything from that. Can you tell us what are you actually doing?”
Vanity Fair writer Maya Kosoff gushes approvingly
In recent years, more individuals have spoken out about the paucity of female and non-white workers in the tech industry. Still, every so often something happens that serves as a reminder of how much work is yet to be done. Sequoia Capital’s Michael Moritz came under fire last year when he said that his firm was “not prepared . . . to lower its standards” when it came to hiring diverse candidates. PayPal decided to hold an all-male panel to talk about gender equality in the workplace earlier this year. There is work to be done—no doubt the industry could use a group like Pao’s.
Kosoff isn't the only feminist journalist to help Pao spin her Perkins Kleiner courtroom fiasco into a victory against supposed Silicon Valley sexism. As I wrote last year for the Los Angeles Times after Pao got creamed by the jury:
Here, for example, is Claire Cain Miller insisting in an opinion column in the New York Times that the Pao case had taught Silicon Valley a lesson about changing its free-wheeling misogynist ways:
"Just as Anita Hill once helped shine a light on overt sexual harassment, Ms. Pao, in suing Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, might have done the same for subtle sexism. The trial was riveting in part because many women could relate to the slights described on the witness stand, like men interrupting women in meetings or assuming they were too preoccupied for a big role because they had children."….
Here is Sean Elder at Newsweek, in an article titled "Is the Ellen Pao Trial Silicon Valley's 'Anita Hill Moment'?": "Gender stereotyping, like racial stereotyping, isn't pretty, but the pockets of resistance in the insular world of many startups may prove fierce."….
Annie Lowry of New York magazine admits that Pao couldn’t prove that sexism exists at Kleiner Perkins — but that’s because it's "the sexism that you can’t quite prove." Lowry writes:
"The problem is that sexism today very often is not overt. It’s subtle, and that makes it all the more difficult to identify and root out. It’s not your boss hitting on you and then demoting you to secretary when you spurn his advances. It’s your boss describing your assertiveness as too assertive, and suggesting you might be better suited for an operational role."
Sexism so subtle that you can't see it, deciding not to lower your standards so as to hire more women. Ellen Pao might not have been very good at working in the tech industry, but she's a genius at persuading the feminist chattering classes that it's all the industry's misogynist fault.