Pampered Adulteress Sues Top Venture Capital Firm For Sex Discrimination

Ellen Pao, a former junior partner at the top venture capital firm of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, is suing, claiming she wasn't made a senior partner because she is a woman.  The minute she arrived at the company, she was treated second class, worse than all the other employees. Just look how badly she was treated:

Ms. Pao, now 45 and interim chief of the social media site Reddit, was somewhere between Mr. Doerr’s protégée and surrogate daughter. He promoted her, encouraged her and defended her after his colleagues soured on her. And his interest in having more women in technology seemed genuine. Ms. Pao, who is expected to testify as early as Friday, began at Kleiner in 2005 as Mr. Doerr’s chief of staff. Ms. Pao, a Harvard-trained lawyer with deep experience in the tech field, was initially paid $220,000 a year, plus 30 to 60 percent of her base salary as a bonus, plus much more as her share of Kleiner’s investment funds [about $560,000 a year, according to this website]. She worked so much that Mr. Doerr begged her to stop, writing her at one point to “please, please really take a real leave. You deserve it!”

To me that sounds like the opposite, that she was given special treatment. I don't think any woman reading this would mind being "discriminated against" in this way. I certainly wouldn't, if I were a woman.

Like Ms. Pao, I'm an attorney too. Let's see if I can keep up with the argument of a Harvard trained lawyer:

Ms. Pao’s account to Mr. Hirschfeld depicted an office where sexism was rampant and she was told — in a friendly way — “you had to be one of the guys to be successful.”

Unless she was told this by her boss who was evaluating her for her promotion, and it can be proved that he said it, this isn't very relevant.

When Mr. Hirschfeld asked for a copy of Kleiner’s manual on discrimination, it could not be found.

No manual on discrimination? Most companies that have such "manuals" produce them in the hopes of protecting themselves from lawsuits. They also sometimes subject their employees to degrading men-are-bad, white-people-are-bad seminars for the same purpose. But the absence of such a manual means nothing. They also don't have a manual telling employees not to rape and murder other employees. That doesn't mean the company would be responsible if such a thing happened.

At one meeting discussed in the trial, Ray Lane, a senior partner, needed someone to take notes. He asked two female junior partners, and was surprised when they said no, according to testimony.

If at a meeting one partner once asked two females to take notes, do you know what that means?

It means nothing.

Ms. Pao, however, did make a friend:

She had a consensual affair with a married junior partner, Ajit Nazre, that ended badly. Her suit maintains that Mr. Nazre was in a position to retaliate against her, and did so, and that her position at the firm suffered when she complained.

When Ms. Pao, who was also married (to a man who had openly dated one of his male employees), finished making love to Mr. Nazre, did he mistreat her?  Possibly, but I don't see how that is relevant as he was also a junior partner, and I doubt Mr. Nazre was responsible for promotions. If Pao is trying to make the case that the firm discriminated against her, however, evidence of her hanky panky with a married coworker doesn't exactly show good judgment on her part.

Kleiner has had about 24 junior partners in its history, Mr. Doerr testified. Most of them were male. Most of them did not make it to the inner circle. “What’s unusual, what is truly unusual, is for a partner to be promoted,” he said. “It’s happened only five times in the 30-year history of the firm.” The others, he said, were asked “to move on.”

Ah, so this is the part where we need some legal commentary.

If Ms. Pao had taken labor law at Harvard Law School, she would tell you that in most discrimination lawsuits the key issue is intent. But rarely will you get the boss to come out on record, twirling his moustache and cackling, "Of course we only promote men! Women are only good for taking notes and sleeping with our junior married executives!"

So if you can't get a confession from the boss, how do you show intent? The main way is to show a pattern of promotion or hiring that discriminates against a group. If you have a big company, and every year you promote 100 people to senior management, and your junior management pool is 50/50 men/women, but you promote 90/10 men/women, that's strong evidence that the company is discriminating against women, assuming the women have comparable work records.

But suppose you have a company like Kleiner Perkins, where in 30 years only five people have been promoted. That's an extremely small number! And let's assume that most of your junior employees are men, because as Mr. Doerr mentioned in the article, most people they hire are successful entrepreneurs and most successful entrepreneurs are men. So with an overwhelmingly male junior employee pool, you promote five people over 30 years, and let's assume none are women.

Is that discrimination? It's such a small number of hires, from a pool that is overwhelmingly male, that I think, objectively, that discrimination is almost impossible to prove. The fact is that most men also don't make it to be a senior partner at Kleiner Perkins. It sounds like Pao got an enormous salary, a special position as Doerr's Chief of Staff, and special mentoring that others didn't get. Unless there's other evidence that comes out in trial, I don't see it.

Pao is asking for $16 million dollars. I commend Kleiner Perkins for standing firm and not settling this.

Pedro Gonzales is the editor of Newsmachete.com, the conservative news site.