A defiant Ellen Pao said this afternoon that although she had lost her gender discrimination case against her former firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the “battle was worth it” if she helped women and minorities.
The technology world was riveted by the developments in the five-week-long case this afternoon. An initial verdict read in court in San Francisco just after 2 p.m. Pacific vindicated Kleiner Perkins on all four of Pao’s claims. But after the judge determined that the jury foreman had miscounted the votes on one claim — whether the famous venture capital firm had retaliated against her — he sent the jurors back for further deliberations.
More than two hours later, the jury came back once again, confirming the earlier result, with one juror having switched their vote on the crucial retaliation claim. The final vote on that claim was 9 to 3. Originally, it had been 8 to 4.
In a statement in court after the final verdict, a serious-looking Pao said, “If I’ve helped to level the playing field for women and minorities in venture capital, then the battle was worth it. Now is the time for me to get back to my career, my family, and my friends.”
Later in a series of tweets, Pao added that “Because of social media and live reports, the problem of gender discrimination in venture capital has received attention around the globe. … While today’s outcome is a disappointment, I take consolation in knowing that people really listened.”
For its part, a victorious Kleiner Perkins issued this statement: “Today’s verdict reaffirms that Ellen Pao’s claims have no legal merit. We are grateful to the jury for its careful examination of the facts. There is no question gender diversity in the workplace is an important issue. [Kleiner Perkins] remains committed to supporting women in venture capital and technology both inside our firm and within our industry.”
Surprised in court
Based on reactions from people in the courtroom, it appears that the crowd gathered there had expected Pao to prevail. According to Forbes reporter Ellen Huet, there was a “serious gasp” in the room when the jury’s first “no” was read.
Some think that Pao’s legal team may be to blame — or that Kleiner Perkins’ team should get the credit for the VC firm’s victory. “Tough [Ellen Pao] decision,” tweeted investor Eghosa Omoigui after the original verdict was announced, but before the judge ordered further deliberations. “Always thought she would win on retaliation. [Kleiner’s] quality of representation won hands-down. #LawyersMatter.”
— Malaika Fraley (@malaikafraley) March 27, 2015
But supporters of Pao, who is currently the CEO of the online community site Reddit, stood by her, despite her defeat. For that, Pao said she was grateful. “Thank you to the [Reddit] team and board … for standing by me,” she tweeted.
“Ellen Pao is my boss,” tweeted Heath Black, a member of Reddit’s product team, “so I’m biased, but she’s a tenacious, focused, authentic leader. I want more Ellen Paos in leadership in Tech.”
Others with no direct connection to the case also supported Pao, in particular because of the case’s gender discrimination dynamic.
“So much [love to Ellen Pao],” tweeted tech culture critic Shanley Kane. “This is a great time to show support and love for women who are STANDING UP against abuse & discrimination in VC.”
And, from Silicon Valley-based reporter Lisa Oberndorfer: “We’ve got a long way to go … Thanks Ellen Pao for speaking up.”
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