Ellen Pao has been axed from her job at Reddit (timeline). She failed to collect on the $176 million that she was seeking from Kleiner Perkins. Her husband seems to be underwater financially due to legal fees associated with defending against various fraud lawsuits. Pao apparently still gets checks from Kleiner, payouts from deals made during her time as a junior partner, but presumably at age 45 she eventually needs to find a new way to make money.
If Ellen Pao actually had the superior ability as a venture capitalist that Kleiner was allegedly unable to discover, she could become the richest person in the U.S. in fairly short order, simply by backing the right startups and taking the standard 2 and 20 percent fee (presumably investors in VC funds would forgive her history of litigation if she could earn consistently high returns for them). That Pao went to work as a salaried manager of an existing company (Reddit), however, suggests that she doesn’t know how to outperform the S&P 500 (like most VCs, according to this analysis!).
As noted in this April 2015 posting, Ellen Pao could have been paid $238 million tax-free for having sex with her old boss at Kleiner. From a legal point of view, the fact that Pao is now married does not impair her ability to earn money from bearing out-of-wedlock children with (or selling abortions to) any of the high-income men that she might meet in Silicon Valley. However, at age 45 it might be tough for her to establish a profitable pregnancy (see OvaScience.com, however, for how the career opportunity of child support profiteer might be extended).
Could Pao just get another W2 job? Having embroiled Kleiner Perkins in years of litigation, being married to a man who embroiled his previous employer in race discrimination litigation, and having failed to meet expectations at Reddit, she doesn’t seem like a new employer’s likely first pick. (except maybe the New York Times? all through her Kleiner lawsuit they kept writing about how wonderfully qualified Pao was; the Times has a digital division and now they can use their editorial insights about how exceptional Pao’s performance was at Kleiner to earn some superior profits by hiring Pao for themselves)
One idea would be for Pao to write a book. It seems that at least a large fraction of the New York Times readership would want to read it. “It’s Silicon Valley 2, Ellen Pao 0: Fighter of Sexism Is Out at Reddit” is a July 10, 2015 NYT story that describes Pao as “a hero to many.” Note how the Times editors were confident that a jury in the nation’s most liberal plaintiff-friendly jurisdiction got it wrong. After hearing weeks of evidence, the jury decided that sexism was not the reason that the partners (both male and female) of Kleiner decided not to promote Pao. But, according to the plain words of the headline, there must have been sexism blocking Pao’s career there because that’s what she was fighting against (not “Phantom Sexism” or “Alleged but Disproven Sexism”).
The market for books by female managers at Silicon Valley companies has been proven out by Sheryl Sandberg (see my review of Lean In). By using a ghostwriter, Sandberg demonstrated that Pao wouldn’t even have to do the wordsmithing in order to enjoy an income as an author. That does leave an open question… what should Ellen Pao’s book be called? And what would be a good outline of content?
- reader comment (Susan, 94085) on NYT article:
“I’m a female Silicon Valley executive who worked with Ellen at Microsoft. Ellen should look for a job in academics because that is her core competency. Working in the business world, not so much. Her story is illustrative of a commonly-held misconception among some that great academic success always translates into great success in other areas. Both Ellen and her employers have bought into this fallacy with disastrous results: employers have continued to hire her for jobs with increasing responsibility, wrongly hoping that she will one day live up to the promise shown at Princeton and Harvard, only to be disappointed; and, Ellen still can’t accept that she can’t repeat her academic success in the business world, which has caused her to believe that her failure is the result of discrimination.”
- one from Ambrose Birece in “Hades”:
“Ellen Pao encapsulates the myth of elites in America. Silicon Valley and Wall Street both suffer from tautological thinking where the best are the best. However again and again we see the mediocrity of our “elite” schools. (See: Bush, G.W.; also Summers, Larry)
Ellen Pao represents entitlement of the elites personified, a sort of Peter Principle for the well heeled: they keep getting promoted, regardless of their incompetence, because of old school ties. And yet America was and is built by the Scrappy Classes, not the country club set looking to get their kids into the Ivies, Stanford, or Duke.”