The jury said that the venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers did not retaliate against former partner Ellen Pao by terminating her. The case has spurred conversation about gender discrimination in the tech world.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
One of Silicon Valley's blue chip venture capital firms has successfully defended itself against charges of gender discrimination in a suit brought by a former junior partner, Ellen Pao. The defendant was Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers. And it's a case that has riveted Silicon Valley and highlighted ongoing questions about the lack of women in the highest echelons of the tech industry. NPR's Laura Sydell joins me now to talk about the verdict. And, Laura, first, what did the jury decide?
LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Well, there were four counts that were brought against Kleiner Perkins by Ellen Pao. And they all had to do with being treated in a discriminatory way because she was a woman. The last, which took them actually a little extra time to decide - the jury had to go back, they only had eight votes and they needed nine - had to do with whether or not the firm retaliated against her by firing her, because she raised issues of being discriminated against. But as it stands right now, Kleiner Perkins has been found not to have been discriminatory in its behavior towards Ellen Pao.
SIEGEL: We want you to take us back and tell us what prompted Pao to bring the charges against the firm in the first place.
SYDELL: Well, she claimed that there was ongoing behavior against her that was definitely targeted her because she was - targeted at her because she was a woman. And it included claims that Pao had to listen to colleagues discuss porn stars in her presence. She actually had a consensual affair with a partner that turned ugly. And the partner, Ajit Nazre, apparently lied to Pao, told her that he wasn't married when he was, and one day he showed up at her hotel room, dressed in a bathrobe, holding a glass of wine. Another senior partner, she claimed, Ray Lane, had joked to Pao that she should be flattered by that behavior. One of the partners apparently also told her that women shouldn't be invited to a dinner with former president - vice president Al Gore because they, quote, "kill the buzz." Now, I should say, however, that the firm's lawyer objected to these charges, and the jury may not have believed them. But it certainly got a lot of people talking. Meanwhile, on paper, Pao looks highly qualified. I mean, she's got an undergraduate degree from Princeton and a JD and a business degree from Harvard.
SIEGEL: Obviously the firm, Kleiner Perkins, can attract people with those qualifications. Tell us more about Kleiner Perkins.
SYDELL: Well, this is really one of the, you know, blue chip storied firms of Silicon Valley. They were one of the early investors in Google and Amazon. And in that way, they're kind of seen as a representative of the tech world. And that has notoriously been a place where women haven't been made to feel very comfortable. I would say for most venture capital firms, less than 10 percent of the senior partners are women. Ironically, Kleiner Perkins has done better - about 20 percent of their partners are female. So in some ways, it's ironic they're the ones who were sued.
SIEGEL: Well, in short, given that Pao has lost on all four charges that she brought against the firm, what are the implications of this case?
SYDELL: You know, despite that, a lot of people off the record said that the behavior that they heard were things they had seen and you're getting a lot of introspection here in the valley about how women are treated and why there aren't more women. And, in fact, two cases have been brought - one against Twitter by an engineer there who claims that her path to moving up the ladder was unclear and blocked. And another one is being brought by an employee at Facebook.
SIEGEL: That's NPR's Laura Sydell. Laura, thank you.
SYDELL: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.