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Ellen Pao 'Resets' Gender Bias in Silicon Valley

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

In her book "Reset," Ellen Pao reveals critical details from her historic lawsuit that never made it to the jury.

Pao, a former partner at Kleiner Perkins, one of the nation's biggest venture capital firms, sued the company in the most-watched sex discrimination case in the history of the Silicon Valley. But she didn't get to explain some things, and that was most painful part of her experience.

"You've never done anything for women, have you?" the opposing counsel asked snidely.

The 'Pao Effect'

Pao didn't answer the question above because, she said, her lawyers didn't want her to appear confrontational in court. Her allegations of sex, lies and videotape were explosive enough.

"I ended up coming across as distant, even a bit robotic, as I tried to keep my answers noncombative." she says in her new book. "But it hurt to leave that one unchallenged."

Pao said the question left a false impression because she had helped drive investments in six women-founded companies while at Kleiner Perkins. After getting fired, she invested in five women-led companies with her own money.

But perhaps the most lasting impact of her case was how it opened up the underbelly of discrimination against women in tech. Reporters called it the "Pao effect."

Discovery Tech?

In her legal tell-all, Pao also describes the role of discovery in her case. It did not go well.

She produced more than 700,000 emails to the opposing attorneys; they produced about 5,000. And they took advantage of superior resources, culling through every one of her email to find damaging information.

While more women have stood up against sex discrimination since Pao's case, they still struggle against it in the tech industry. According to a survey in the Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area last year, at least 65 percent of women reported unwanted sexual advances and as many as 88 percent said they received demeaning comments from male colleagues.

"You would think by now that these sorts of harassment issues would not come up as often, that people would be more knowledgeable, more sensitive, more trained," said David Lowe, partner with Rudy, Exelrod, Zieff & Lowe, whose firm represented Pao.

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