Can you think of anyone with top academic credentials who got fired from a job for underperformance, sued to get paid for having XX chromosomes, and who was tied to the world of nonstandard sexuality?
No, not Ellen Pao of Princeton and Harvard, Kleiner Perkins/Reddit, and (at least formerly) gay men.
Gretchen Kalonji, a 1980 graduate from the MIT materials science department, eventually became a professor at MIT. She was denied tenure in 1988, analogous to Ellen Pao’s failure to be promoted to senior partner at Kleiner. Kalonji sued MIT, eventually settling in 1995 for “an undisclosed amount” plus “MIT also agreed to spend at least $50,000 a year for 5 years on a national program encouraging women and minority grad students and postdocs to move onto university faculties.” (sciencemag.org)
Kalonji moved west and ended up in a same-sex relationship with Denice Denton, the chancellor of University of California Santa Cruz. Denton was described as “admired for overcoming gender and sexual-orientation biases and for taking a practical approach to social justice issues” and “ensnared in an investigation into unreported pay and perks in the UC system and was criticized after $600,000 in renovations were made to her university home.”
Denton arranged a $192,000/year job for Kalonji as the University of California’s “director of international strategy development” (sfgate; WSJ) . Denton subsequently committed suicide, leaving an estate worth perhaps $2 million. Kalonji then sued the estate for more than 100 percent of this value (argument: (1) if it had been legal for two women to be married then Denton would have married her; (2) had they in fact been married, Denton would have updated her will and left everything to Kalonji instead of to Denton’s blood relatives). (Santa Cruz Sentinel) Kalonji ultimately settled this lawsuit in exchange for roughly $750,000 in real estate (Santa Cruz Sentinel).
What do readers think? The New York Times gives all credit to Ellen Pao and, implicitly, Princeton and Harvard. But it would seem that an MIT graduate blazed the trail…