“The Self-Styled Martyr of Silicon Valley: The odd tale of Ellen Pao” (Commentary) is a review of Ellen Pao’s Reset book (see Ellen Pao writes something kind of interesting). The review summarizes the facts:
Pao is a former corporate attorney and Silicon Valley entrepreneur who went to work for the venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins and then, in 2012, filed a $16 million gender-discrimination lawsuit against it. She alleged workplace retaliation by a partner at the firm with whom she had a brief affair. Then she alleged that she was fired in retaliation for the lawsuit. Potential damages could have run as high as $144 million.
Is it true that she was an “entrepreneur”? Wikipedia says that she worked for a couple of established companies, such as BEA Systems, prior to joining Kleiner Perkins. Is any non-government job in the U.S. now considered “entrepreneurship”? [And remember that she could have made a lot more than $144 million without risking an unfavorable jury verdict; see Litigious Minds Think Alike: Divorce litigators react to the Ellen Pao v. Kleiner Perkins lawsuit]
Apparently Pao is working her kid pretty hard for the book, having the sad little nine-year-old wonder about the gender balance of a “coding camp.” (Did this happen organically? I’ve seen a lot of gender-unbalanced groups of children and never heard one comment on the gender balance.)
Based on my experience as a software expert witness, Pao’s description of big law firm life isn’t recognizable:
Pao goes to work for Cravath, Swaine & Moore, … one male partner would always lose his copy of the documents they were working on and would have to look over the shoulder of one of his female underlings. She saw him one day staring down the shirt of one of her female colleagues …. In another instance, “a senior partner would… plant himself just outside the doorway of my colleague’s office, licking an ice cream cone while staring at her.”
Perhaps due to the fact that law firms bill by the hour, I’ve never seen one lawyer simply stand in a hallway for any reason.
The reviewer is as skeptical as the jury regarding Pao’s stated reasons for her failure to make senior partner at Kleiner:
This is all perfectly believable [including the senior partner putting on a display of idleness for everyone else at Cravath to see?], but the problem is that things went downhill for Pao when she started sleeping with one of the other partners—one Ajit Nazre, who was married and had children. … how old do you have to be before you recognize yourself as a walking cliché? Sleeping with a married guy at the office who promises to leave his wife for you?
Apparently estimating the probability of your married sex partner suing his or her spouse is not a subject taught at Princeton or Harvard!
Pao’s conversion (as seen in Bruno) of Buddy Fletcher from homosexual to heterosexual is touched on only lightly in the review: “Fletcher had relationships with men before he married Pao.” This review is the first place that I’ve seen a description of Mr. Fletcher blazing a trail recently followed by some Hollywood celebrities:
It’s no surprise that Pao’s book doesn’t get into the fact that Fletcher himself has been accused of sexual harassment and discrimination by employees. In 2003, Fletcher was sued by a man he’d hired to manage his home in Connecticut. The man alleged that Fletcher made sexual advances toward him. A few years later, Fletcher was sued by another property manager, who claimed he had been fired after refusing Fletcher’s sexual advances. Both men reached confidential settlements with Fletcher.
Who else loves Ellen Pao as much as I do? “The case did make Pao a feminist talking point for a time. She notes that she earned praise from Hillary Clinton and Sheryl Sandberg for her brave stance.”
In some ways the most interesting part of the review is that proof by repetition succeeds. The author of the review is Naomi Schaefer Riley. Her Wikipedia page indicates no technical training and no experience ever working for a tech firm or even living in a part of the country with a significant tech industry presence. But she feels comfortable talking about the bad stuff that happens in Silicon Valley:
For all her faults, Pao is not wrong about the “brogrammer” atmosphere at these companies. … At many Silicon Valley firms, men really do act like they are in a college dorm. Their conversations and behavior are completely inappropriate for work,
How does Ms. Riley know that the 35-year-old programmers vesting-in-peace at Google are partying like fraternity brothers? What is the evidence that the typical Silicon Valley firm includes “conversations and behavior” that are more “inappropriate” than what might occur in a car dealership or an airline crew lounge?