Today, the jury is hearing closing arguments in interim Reddit CEO Ellen Pao’s gender discrimination lawsuit against her former employer and Silicon Valley venture capital powerhouse Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
In his closing argument, Pao’s attorney Alan Exelrod told the jury that “they ran Kleiner Perkins like a boys club,” and that Pao was never given a real chance to succeed — calling out Kleiner Perkins’ arguments about Pao’s personality and personal life as mere distractions.
Exelrod focused on Pao’s successes at Kleiner Perkins, including the performance reviews from her stint at the firm, which were generally positive. Whether or not she was abrasive or hard to work with, or how many women KP employs, or how much she earned are immaterial to the case, he argued.
The only thing on trial here was whether or not she was held back from promotion regardless of whether or not she did her job well, he argued. Men like Amol Deshpande and Wen Hsieh with performance reviews similar or worse than Pao’s got their promotions, Exelrod argued.
“Again what we’re talking about is performance, not distractions. This case should be about what Ms. Pao did for Kleiner Perkins,” Exelrod said.
Pao urged the firm to invest in Twitter way back in 2008, which would have made Kleiner Perkins a lot of money. She also took RPX, one of her portfolio companies, to a successful IPO. She managed teams, Exelrod says, and was well-regarded by John Doerr, a senior partner at the firm.
But Exelrod singled out Kleiner Perkins senior partner Ted Schlein as his example of everything wrong with the firm, as indicated by the fact that he made the extraordinary claim on the stand that women don’t have the right “genetic makeup” to be venture capitalists.
“Sometimes in the courtroom you get statements that express real attitudes,” Exelrod said.
Pao’s side will complete their closing statements after a lunch break, then Kleiner Perkins will have the chance to give its side of the story in its own closing arguments this afternoon.