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Latest Big Gender Discrimination Case in Silicon Valley is Against Kleiner Perkins

Emanuel Shirazi

A gender discrimination trial is anything but new news. This high profile trial between Ellen Pao and Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers (KPCB) however, is rapidly gaining attention due to the increased awareness of income disparity amongst women in the Silicon Valley tech industry.

KPCB is one of the oldest and largest investment firms in Silicon Valley and has helped fund companies such as Google, Twitter, and Uber. Ellen Pao, the current interim CEO of Reddit–and former partner at KPCB–is suing the company for $16 million in back pay and future wage loss. Pao claims that she was denied promotions from KPCB because of her gender and then fired when she complained. Pao says she was not invited to important dinners and business events because women would “kill the buzz.” She also says that she was repeatedly passed over for promotions and pay increases. Instead, KPCB allegedly gave promotions to younger male partners who were less qualified and paid Pao less than those who were equally qualified.

KPCB tells a different story, however. Instead, the company claims that Pao left on her own accord because of poor performance reviews and altercations with co-workers. KPCB says that Pao was not qualified for her position and did not have the necessary skills to fill the role adequately.

As background: Women hold only 10-20% of tech jobs at Twitter, Google, Apple, Facebook and Yahoo. That number is even lower when you examine the number of women who hold partner level positions at venture capital firms (6%). In 42 years as a company, KPCB has allegedly only promoted one woman from a junior partner to a senior partner.

Gender bias is one of the most talked about social issues in Silicon Valley today. While many firms acknowledge the gender disparity, they often point the blame at cultural issues. They claim that because girls and young women are not encouraged to pursue careers in website design and coding, there are not enough qualified female engineers to fill these positions.

Do you think it’s the responsibility of tech companies to hire more women in senior roles—or do you think that something must be done on a cultural level first? Is the gender disparity in the tech industry intentional?

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