When a California jury decided that gender wasn’t the reason that Ellen Pao hadn’t been promoted, there must’ve been a collective sigh throughout Silicon Valley. For the venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers, the legal win was not exactly a high-five, fist pumping moment of triumph. After all the negative publicity, they cannot go back to “business as usual”.
With all eyes on Pao, it was only a matter of time before the comparisons began. The one that caught my attention was the comparison of Ellen Pao’s fight to that of Mrs Rosa Parks. We should be careful not to compare this lawsuit to Rosa Parks’ journey down the Halls of Justice. Other than being women, everything was different, from one being a plaintiff (Pao) to (Parks) as a defendant.
In 1955, Rosa Parks embarked on a journey that would improve the lives of an entire race of people, when she refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama; which at that time was illegal. Indeed, her being found guilty was the catalyst for the bus boycott that followed, an historic grassroots movement.
By contrast, Ellen Pao’s experience in the workplace was discriminatory and that act was itself illegal. Interestingly enough, this law was a direct result of the Civil Rights Act of 1963. In which the word “sex” was added to the part of the bill that banned discrimination in the workplace, on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin.
One lawsuit casts a spotlight on the entire tech industry and social media held it there. All eyes focused on the Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers and men like them; in places like Silicon Valley. The future looks brighter for capable women in the tech world, particularly at Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield and Beyers. In an effort to prove themselves gender-equitable, they’ll quickly promote a woman up the ranks.
So, #ThankyouEllenPao… you won! If not for yourself, then for those female applicants who will surely follow.
The former Kleiner Perkins junior partner describes to Katie Couric the male dominated culture of Silicon Valley, and what she sees as the biggest barriers to success for women in tech.
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