This morning in San Francisco, a jury grilled Reddit CEO Ellen Pao in the gender discrimination lawsuit she’s brought against former employer and venture capital heavyweight Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers.
One of the first questions was also one of the most interesting: Why was Reddit the only place to offer her a job after being fired from Kleiner Perkins?
Pao answered that she thinks other companies were afraid of a backlash from the powerful Kleiner Perkins, given that she was pursuing this $US16 million lawsuit against them, according to a Re/code liveblog.
It’s the same reason she didn’t hit up her connections at her former portfolio companies, Pao says: Kleiner Perkins had millions invested in them, and her coming aboard as an executive there had the potential to strain those relationships.
Doing so “didn’t seem fair to me, and it seemed like it would be uncomfortable,” Pao said.
Those portfolio companies seem to be doing well, with Flipboard valued at $US800 million as of the end of 2013 and Datameer raising a $US36 million round of funding around the same time.
Another popular topic was “arsehole” behaviour at Kleiner Perkins.
Prompted by juror questions on her use of the phrase “don’t be an arsehole” in an email to direct manager and senior partner John Doerr, Pao explained that it was a common saying at the firm, and referred to the need to show its portfolio companies respect — something, she says, the firm had issues with at times.
For example, she sat in on a meeting between two Kleiner Perkins partners and two startup founders about an potential investment. Not only did the two partners vocally declare they were passing on the investment right then and there, Pao says they started talking about finding the founders new jobs.
Also mentioned was a “resentment chart” that Pao had created, which listed all of the problems she had with various Kleiner Perkins executives. She said it was a personal document she had created to work through her frustrations.
“Once I wrote it down and got it out of my system, I got it out of my system,” Pao said.
In response to a juror question asking if filing this lawsuit (instead of seeking a settlement) was a way to punish Kleiner Perkins, Pao had another brief soliloquy:
Litigation is painful and difficult. This has been three years of my life. My information is all public. My emails with my friends are public. All my emails are public. This is not a good process for resolving disputes. I wanted something meaningful so I could avoid all this. I wanted something so they couldn’t feel that women were at risk and treated unfairly. This is where we’re at because I couldn’t get them to take responsibility.
The juror questions followed several days of testimony by Pao, during which Kleiner Perkins lawyer Lynne Hermle grilled her about her personal life.
The court’s on lunch break right now. After the break, both Pao’s lawyer and opposition lawyer Lynne Hermle will have a chance to ask follow-up questions.
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