On Thursday, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Matt Murphy explained exactly why he supported the firing of Ellen Pao from the firm.
Murphy’s testimony is part of an ongoing gender discrimination lawsuit brought by Pao against the venture capital firm that’s famous for investing in Google, Amazon, Snapchat, and many others.
Pao’s attorney was focused on digging through the details on exactly why Pao was dismissed in 2012, according to Liz Gannes and Nellie Bowles Re/code, who wrote up a thorough overview of Thursday’s session.
Murphy’s comments seemed to suggest Pao was dismissed for cultural issues rather than for problems regarding her performance.
This was most evident when Murphy answered questions from the jury, which Judge Harold Kahn read aloud. One juror asked about how many peers rated Pao’s performance as below expectations during performance reviews. During the process, 28.6% of seven peers said she wasn’t meeting expectations, while 57% said she exceeded expectations.
“This juror has observed that 28.6 per cent of seven [people who reviewed Pao] is two. So the point of this juror is that only two people gave the negative input under peer input, is that correct?” Judge Kahn asked, according to Re/code’s account.
The judge went on to say that the juror observed that out of the seven people who provided peer input about Pao, four or five said her performance exceeded expectations and two said she didn’t meet expectations.
Murphy responded by saying there were “a lot of dimensions to evaluate on” other than peer performance reviews.
Earlier in Thursday’s session, Murphy said Pao didn’t fit culturally, according to Re/code:
It wasn’t about ‘like,’ it was about how well she was doing as a team member. It was about the culture of the firm and how well people were getting along, the culture of teamwork.
This was all despite the positive reviews Pao received from people she had worked with. Mike McCue, the CEO of Flipboard, described Pao as “fantastic” and “responsive,” adding that she had a “great dynamic in the boardroom,” reports Re/code.
Countless stories have been written about the culture in Silicon Valley and how it can seem alienating — especially towards women. Murphy’s comments during the Ellen Pao trial seem to further that notion.
Several female entrepreneurs described their difficulties in getting funding from male venture capitalists when speaking with Wired in July. In some cases, male venture capitalists tried to push off these startup founders on female entrepreneurs, and in one instance a venture capitalist tried to turn a pitch meeting into a date.
But beyond the instances of sexism that have been reported, others have written about how fundamentally superficial the culture of Silicon Valley can be. Last year, The New Republic reported on Silicon Valley’s obsession with youth, writing that some middle-aged Silicon Valley workers are receiving Botox treatment to appear younger.
It’s still unclear how the lawsuit involving Pao and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is going to pan out, but based on Thursday’s testimony, it at least seems like there could be a cultural issue at play.
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