“This Is How Sexism Works in Silicon Valley My lawsuit failed. Others won’t.” is an excerpt from Ellen Pao’s Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change, a book released today.
One part of the Ellen Pao lawsuit that never made sense to me was “Why would the Kleiner partners want to make themselves poorer by pushing out a high performing junior partner?”
The excerpt explains some of this. First, it seems that Pao was essentially hired as a secretary, not as an investor:
When I first got the three pages of specs for a chief-of-staff position at Kleiner Perkins in 2005, it was almost as if someone had copied my résumé. … John Doerr wanted his new chief of staff to “leverage his time,” which he valued at $200,000 per hour. [actually worth a lot more under the California child support formula]
It was fun having sex with a married guy at work:
[Ajit Nazre and I] started seeing each other and had what eventually amounted to a short-lived, sporadic fling. It was fun bonding over work. Ajit told me the history of the firm and gave me the scoop on departed partners, and I felt like I was at last being let in on company secrets. Finally I had someone who was willing to talk about the dysfunction we saw in our workplace, and to be honest about how decisions were really made.
You know that you’re with a homophobe if your female partner objects to you having sex with other men:
During our first date in New York, he told me during hours of conversation that he had previously been with men, something I never had a problem with but which would later be used in the press as evidence that our marriage was a sham. We got engaged just six weeks after we met.
Here’s the most interesting part, though…
One secret of the venture-capital world is that many firms run on vote trading. A person might offer to vote in favor of investing in another partner’s investment so that partner will support his upcoming investment. Many firms, including Kleiner, also had a veto rule: Any one person could veto another member’s investment. No one ever exercised a veto while I was there, but fear of it motivated us to practice the California art of superficial collegiality, where everything seems tan and shiny on the outside but behind closed doors, people would trash your investment, block it, or send you on unending “rock fetches” — time-consuming, unproductive tasks to stall you until you gave up.
Venture capital’s underbelly of competitiveness exists in part because the more I invest, the less money for you, my partner, to make your investments. And we’re all trying to make as many investments as possible because chances are low that any one investment is going to be successful. Partners can increase their own odds by excluding all of your investments. And as a junior partner you faced another dilemma: Your investments could be poached by senior partners. You wanted to pitch your venture so it would be supported but not so much that it would be stolen. Once a senior partner laid claim to a venture you were driving, you were better off just keeping quiet.
In other words, it may be that Kleiner wasn’t a pure partnership and therefore Pao’s allegations might not have required each Kleiner partner to act against his or her self-interest. (Though, even in a state where a jury was willing to award $417 million to a woman who used talcum powder (USA Today), Pao’s lawyers couldn’t convince her jury.)
I’ll be interested to hear from readers who decide to invest in Ms. Pao’s book.
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- Global douchebag circuit: Aspen Institute, Ellen Pao, and Buddy Fletcher
- What should Ellen Pao’s forthcoming book be titled?
- Litigious Minds Think Alike: Divorce litigators react to the Ellen Pao v. Kleiner Perkins lawsuit
- Ellen Pao v. Kleiner Perkins wrap-up