Ellen Pao and Elizabeth Holmes intersect

“The Elizabeth Holmes Trial Is a Wake-Up Call for Sexism in Tech” (NYT, 9/15/2021) is a delightful intersection between two of the greatest gifts to this weblog, i.e., Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos fame and Ellen Pao. If you need a refresher on Pao-ology, see the following:

For Holmes, see Theranos was an immigration and H-1B story and Management lessons from Theranos.

Let’s see what the glorious Ellen Pao gives us via her platform on the NYT:

When she founded the unconventional blood-testing company Theranos in 2003, I was relieved to see a woman finally benefit from the hyperbole that dominates venture investing, a world I worked in for nine years, total. Why shouldn’t a woman show the same single-minded confidence that her male peers did?

But after it was revealed that Theranos was not transparent when its blood-testing equipment failed…

Holmes’s psychotic belief that she knew something that the PhD chemists at Siemens and Philips didn’t know was “single-minded confidence.” Diluting blood samples and then running them in the European machines because the Silicon Valley geniuses couldn’t make it work yielded incorrect results for patients (just like the European PhDs said it would), but that was only being “no transparent.”

… as Ms. Holmes’s trial for fraud continues in San Jose, Calif., it’s clear that two things can be true. She should be held accountable for her actions as chief executive of Theranos. And it can be sexist to hold her accountable for alleged serious wrongdoing and not hold an array of men accountable for reports of wrongdoing or bad judgment.

This is where I can agree with Pao. David Boies of Boies Schiller Flexner was on the Theranos board and his firm was the chief enabler, according to the excellent book Bad Blood, of the continuing Theranos fraud. Yet he is not being charged with any crime.

Though never charged with crimes, WeWork’s Adam Neumann and Uber’s Travis Kalanick hyped their way into raising over $10 billion for their companies, claiming they would disrupt their stagnant, tired industries.

Remember the accusations of harassment, privacy violations, price gouging, misleading advertising and any of the other dozens of scandals at Uber? How about the genocide incited on Facebook in Myanmar, or its engagement-centric approach that led to the proliferation of anti-vaccination propaganda on the platform? Neither Mr. Kalanick nor Mark Zuckerberg has faced any significant legal consequences.

Meanwhile, a Tesla employee reportedly described part of a Tesla manufacturing plant as a predator zone for women.

Hmm… what is different about a Tesla that you can drive, admittedly at the cost of neighbors thinking that you’re a sanctimonious douchebag, compared to a blood testing machine that doesn’t work? And you could drive that Tesla or take an Uber to an actual functioning cubicle at WeWork where you could distract yourself from the pain of working by posting on Facebook some righteous hatred for the young people who refuse to get vaccinated against a disease that kills 82-year-olds.

This article is a bit of a letdown, but it is great to see these two female-identifying giants on the same page in the newspaper of record.

(What else do Ellen Pao and Elizabeth Holmes have in common? Nobody would ever have heard of Ellen Pao if she hadn’t been having sex with Ajit Nazre, a married junior partner at her Kleiner Perkins office. That was the basis of her story in the courtroom when she was seeking to extract cash from KP. Elizabeth Holmes’s story in the courtroom is that all of her apparently bad actions were a result of having sex with Ramesh Balwani, a guy in her office. Is it too much to ask that the New York Times devote some space to a woman who didn’t have sex with anyone in the office?)

12 thoughts on “Ellen Pao and Elizabeth Holmes intersect

  1. “Hyping” is different from defrauding, which is what Holmes is charged with. “Hyping” presumably means promoting a product through what lawyers call “puffery,” while fraud is about intentional false representations (knowing that what you are saying is false when you say it) intended to induce reliance as a predicate to the handing over of money. So here is seems Holmes allegedly made false representations about the efficacy of her product in order to induce investors to hand over money. The government is attempting to convince the jury that Holmes knew these representations were false when she made them. Puffery is extolling the virtues of a product maybe excessively a la Neuman or Kalanick. Seemingly a distinction too subtle for Ellen Pao to grasp.

  2. “ you could distract yourself from the pain of working by posting on Facebook some righteous hatred for the young people who refuse to get vaccinated against a disease that kills 82-year-olds.”

    COVID-19 has already proven to be many times more dangerous than varicella, a disease we’ve been vaccinating children for for over 25 years.

    Name another infectious disease that’s filling hospitals to overflowing with under 60 year olds?

    • A person under 60 is not “young”. As far as I am aware, hospitals are not filled with slender 25-year-olds (the kind of “young” person to which I was referring). (Actually I question the meme that hospitals are filled. I am inundated with advertising from hospitals. If they are full, why are they spending money on ads to get more patients? Airports in South Florida don’t advertise for hangar tenants because… they’re actually full.)

    • Hospitals are filled?… S.P., you really want to befriend some doctors who’d trust you enough to tell you privately what’s really going on. Most of the hospital cases aren’t serious enough to warrant hospitalization. As in at all. That’s what you get when govt pays a lot of money to the hospitals for every C19 in-patient. And the rest of “shortage”? That’s pure staffing issue (you need like 5 RNs per ICU bed) – which is massively exacerbated by the idiot admins mandating jabs, which most medical professionals who had seen what they do to real people aren’t willing to take – to the point of leaving their jobs.

      And, no I’m not telling the names, as doctors are losing licenses for speaking up. The fact that medical boards are seeing fit to deprive quite qualified professionals the ability to earn living by practicing their profession as the punishment for speaking up and offering a dissenting opinion – that fact alone – should tell you enough about the reality, which us quite different from the massively totalitarian propaganda you get from TV and other mainstream “media”.

    • Women have caught up using different bullying tactics:

      They establish Code of Conducts, CRT manifestos, diversity training and so forth. Then they form CoC committees and work groups. Subsequently they decide whom to shun (like teenage girls do). The targets (mostly high performing males) come under scrutiny, all their messages and writings up to a decade back are analyzed. If you find the five lines you need, a CoC troika is formed and the deplorable male is excommunicated.

      All other coward males now live in fear, never say anything again and click the correct boxes in the unconscious bias tests, praising gender equality (supremacy?) and LGBTQIA+.

  3. “Bad Blood” was chilling to read. Highly recommended.

    I remember magazines describing Elizabeth Holmes as a “scientist.” In what world is a college dropout with a couple of years of college a “scientist?” Maybe in 1850, not so much today.

    Moreover, I never understood the value proposition of this proposed enterprise, anyway. “We do blood tests, but we use a pinprick to get a few drops of blood, instead of a needle to draw the sample.” I don’t find this compelling in the least. Maybe if you are deathly afraid of needles…

    The Board composition was a huge red flag. None of these Board members knew anything about testing, blood testing, or healthcare. But they were famous.

  4. Everything the NYT publishes always has to circle back around to the agenda they’re promoting. This is always guaranteed now, no matter what the subject, but of course bringing Pao in to comment this way is just *perfect*. “All the Narrative that’s Fit to Print.”

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