It’s Silicon Valley 2, Ellen Pao 0: Fighter of Sexism Is Out

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Re: It’s Silicon Valley 2, Ellen Pao 0: Fighter of Sexism Is

Postby admin » Sun Jul 12, 2015 12:06 am

Women are not making progress in male-dominated VC world, data shows
by Dan Primack @danprimack
JANUARY 30, 2015, 7:30 AM EDT

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After a year of talk about the lack of female venture capitalists, not much has changed.

One year ago, Fortune published research showing that just 4.2% of decision-makers at venture capital firms were female. It was a distressing finding, although not terribly surprising to anyone who has spent time in the industry’s khaki-covered corridors.

This week we decided to update and expand on our data, in order to see how things have, or haven’t, changed. The past 12 months has seen a lot of hand-wringing over the dearth of female investors, including by Newsweek in its controversial new cover story on sexism in Silicon Valley. But did any of it have an impact?

In short, no.

Last year’s report focused on “decision-makers” at U.S.-based venture capital firms that had raised at least one fund of $200 million or more, dating back to 2009. We basically researched the number of female senior partners at each firm (primarily utilizing firm websites and SEC filings) or, when the terminology differed, the most senior “layer” of investment professionals (sometimes that was “general partner” or “managing partner” or “partner,” etc.). It found 542 such decision-makers, but only 23 of them were female (4.2%).

That exact same sample of VC firms currently has 546 decision-makers, of which 24 are female. In other words, these 92 firms — which managed over $60 billion — had added only one female senior partner in the past year, despite all of the media attention (read: shaming) and discussion at industry conferences.

However, we wanted to get a broader understanding of the landscape. So we asked data provider Pitchbook to send us a list of every U.S. VC firm that has raised a fund of $100 million or more since 2009. This expanded our universe to 191 firms that had raised around $114 billion for 305 funds during the time period.

Within this broader group (inclusive of the original cohort), we found that 5.6% of decision-makers were women. In other words, women have slightly better representation in the upper echelons of smaller funds, than in larger ones.

We also looked at the overall number of female investment professionals within the larger group, no matter their level of seniority. The result here was that nearly 10% of all investment professionals (168 of 1,687) were women.

Pitchbook also sent over its own research, which took a broader view of “decision-maker.” It also finds that firms raising smaller funds are more likely to have senior female partners than are firms that raise larger funds, and also finds a small bump in senior female partners at newer firms than at firms founded prior to 2009.
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Re: It’s Silicon Valley 2, Ellen Pao 0: Fighter of Sexism Is

Postby admin » Sun Jul 12, 2015 12:38 am

Lawsuit Shakes Foundation of a Man’s World of Tech
By DAVID STREITFELD
JUNE 2, 2012

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MEN invented the Internet. And not just any men. Men with pocket protectors. Men who idolized Mr. Spock and cried when Steve Jobs died. Nerds. Geeks. Give them their due. Without men, we would never know what our friends were doing five minutes ago.

But are these men trapped in the past even as they create the future?

That’s the debate that has sprung up here since Ellen Pao, a junior partner in her early 40s at the distinguished venture capital firm of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit against the company and her colleagues there.

The complaint, laced with accusations of professional retaliation after spurned sexual advances, has riveted Silicon Valley, whose venture capitalists generally prefer media attention for their businesses and deals, not themselves. Instead of talking about the New New Thing, people are discussing an old, old problem. And they are taking sides.

Although the accusations have yet to be heard in court, even some of Ms. Pao’s critics concede that she is exposing an uncomfortable truth about Silicon Valley: starting tech companies in 2012 is still a male game, and so is funding them.

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Ellen Pao, a partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has filed a lawsuit contending sexual harassment. The suit has surprised some people in Silicon Valley because Kleiner Perkins is among relatively few such firms there to routinely hire and promote women. Credit Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Her complaint goes further. It depicts venture capitalists here as a group of 21st-century men who may be hard at work building the 22nd century but, when it comes to dealing with women in the workplace, are stuck firmly in the caveman era — or at least in the 1950s. It’s a portrait that many women in tech find all too familiar.

“You talk to any woman in technology and she will have a personal story or know a story where she felt conscious of her gender in subtle or significant ways,” said Kathy Savitt, 48, the chief executive of the social commerce start-up Lockerz. Sometimes, she said, it’s as mild as realizing, “I’m the only chick in the room.” Other times, “it’s a lack of relevance, a feeling you can see an end to your opportunities.”

With the number of women in Silicon Valley so meager, a prominent discrimination lawsuit does not surprise Ms. Savitt. This place runs into trouble with women on a regular basis, most memorably in recent years when the C.E.O. of Hewlett-Packard resigned after inappropriate conduct with a former reality TV actress who was working for him.

Still, Ms. Pao’s lawsuit has injected talk of sexual politics into a conversation that generally sticks to money and eyeballs and business plans, monetization and enlightenment of the masses. Men in Silicon Valley may not behave any worse than men anywhere else, but people here like to think it’s all a meritocracy.

The shock really stems from where the scandal is taking place. Ms. Savitt knows Kleiner well; the firm is financing Lockerz. She cannot comment on the suit but expresses her deep admiration for the Kleiner crew. The firm is one of the few exceptions to the venture world’s disinterest in hiring women. A quarter of its 50 partners are female.

That fact fits awkwardly with the lawsuit’s claim that one male executive, Randy Komisar, told Ms. Pao that women would never succeed at Kleiner “because women are quiet.” Another male executive, Chi-Hua Chien, is quoted in the suit saying women were not being invited to a big-deal dinner because they would “kill the buzz.”

Neither Ms. Pao nor any of the parties mentioned in the lawsuit would comment on it.

Kleiner is an unlikely defendant for another reason. It is particularly conscious of its image. “As Kleiner Perkins sees it, the Florence of the Renaissance had the Medicis, the American steel industry had the House of Morgan, and Silicon Valley in the late 20th century has Kleiner Perkins,” David A. Kaplan wrote in “The Silicon Boys” in 1999.

That was when the firm was at its peak, the money behind Netscape, Genentech, Amazon and a little start-up called Google.

“If you believe every allegation in the complaint, it’s appalling and an important window into how the valley works,” Mr. Kaplan said. “But I’m somewhat skeptical. The clichés you hear in the valley are about the pranks, the obsessiveness, the Foosball tables. You don’t really hear about randiness and mistreatment of women. That doesn’t prove it’s not there, but that’s not the lore.”

Of course, it depends on your perspective. Sandy Kurtzig was one of two female engineering students in her class at Stanford in the late 1960s and is still in the game, with a start-up funded by Kleiner. She always tried to take the valley’s sexism in stride — “When men made passes, I just downplayed it so the guy doesn’t feel he’s being put down when rejected” — but is disappointed by its persistence.

“I am shocked there aren’t more women in high positions in Silicon Valley,” Ms. Kurtzig said. “I always thought the world was going to be gender-blind.”

KLEINER’S headquarters in an office park near here does everything possible to minimize the moment. A low-slung building that is obscured if not overwhelmed by vegetation, it looks like the home of a laid-back research center for the promotion of world peace. The parking lot has one Porsche, but otherwise Lexus is about as fancy as it gets. Venture capital wants to change the world without drawing attention to itself.

While Kleiner has seen its magic touch somewhat dimmed of late — it came very late to the money fountain that was Facebook — a lawsuit like this could permanently kill the buzz. Already, it has eclipsed the mid-May announcement of the firm’s 15th fund, a $525 million investment pot. Which, despite all those women at Kleiner, is being run by one woman and nine men.

Ms. Pao, who came to Kleiner with the dream of helping direct such a fund, graduated from Princeton with a degree in electrical engineering. She got a law degree from Harvard and worked for Cravath Swaine & Moore for two years doing international deals. She returned to Harvard for a business degree and worked for a variety of tech companies, including BEA Systems and Tellme Networks. Her geek cred is pretty unassailable.

In 2005, she came to Kleiner as a junior partner, working as chief of staff to John Doerr. He was one of the main evangelists who shaped the modern Internet, a geek’s geek who became a billionaire. But, unlike many here, money never seemed his primary goal.

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Ms. Pao with John Doerr, who was her boss when she said a fellow junior partner began harassing her. Mr. Doerr recently wrote that Kleiner Perkins would “vigorously defend our reputation.” Credit Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Ms. Pao’s role was to help Mr. Doerr identify investments, interview executives and write speeches.

According to the suit, her troubles began almost immediately when another junior partner, Ajit Nazre, made inappropriate sexual advances. Eventually, the complaint says, Ms. Pao “succumbed to Mr. Nazre’s insistence on sexual relations on two or three occasions.” When she put an end to the relationship, it says, he “started a consistent pattern of retaliation against her.” This went on for five years, it contends.

The harassment part of the suit pales in comparison to the retaliation part, which blends into an allegation of a general effort to keep women in their place. Kleiner, Ms. Pao’s lawsuit says, discriminated against her and other women “by failing to promote them comparably to men, by compensating them less than men through lower salary, bonus and carried interest, by restricting the number of investments that women are allowed to make as compared to men.”

The firm, which has about 80 employees here with a handful more in China, is accused of failing to act when complaints of sexual harassment or discrimination were made. Ms. Pao says women are excluded from meetings and discussions. The firm fails to provide opportunities for visibility and success inside and outside the firm for women as compared with men, the complaint says.

Kleiner supporters have some questions, even if they do not necessarily wish to go on the record: Why did a talented woman stay for so long at a place that was treating her so poorly? Also, how is it that you can’t remember how many times you slept with someone who harassed you?

And how is it possible that Mr. Doerr never listened to her assertions of retaliation and discrimination? Mr. Doerr declined to comment, but his supporters have an answer. The first that anyone at the firm knew of her concerns, they say, was just five months ago — at which point Kleiner promptly brought in a lawyer to investigate. He found no basis to her complaints, the firm says.

If you take the Kleiner line, Mr. Nazre was less the instigator than the victim; he had a consensual affair with Ms. Pao and now is being portrayed as a harasser.
The suit says he left the firm after the investigator’s report at the beginning of the year, implying a cause and effect. People inside Kleiner say he left of his own volition before the inquiry began.

Mr. Nazre has not surfaced since the lawsuit was filed. A voice-mail message box belonging to him was full late last week. He did not answer messages through his LinkedIn page, which says he still works at Kleiner.

Kleiner supporters said that the firm made repeated efforts to achieve a resolution, but that the parties could not come to terms. The lawsuit was filed in San Francisco Superior Court on May 10, but was not reported in the news media until two weeks later.

BOTH sides in the case are bringing out high-profile legal firepower. Ms. Pao is represented by the employment law specialist Alan B. Exelrod, who won a significant victory against the law firm of Baker & McKenzie in a harassment case. Kleiner is represented by Lynne C. Hermle, an equally celebrated employer defense lawyer. Ms. Hermle successfully defended I.B.M. in a case in which an employee said she was fired after complaining about sexual harassment.

Ms. Hermle has until June 13 to file a response to the accusations. “The complaint has no merit whatsoever,” she said. Mr. Exelrod declined to comment.

Ms. Pao is known to the small world of venture capitalists here. Her husband, Alphonse Fletcher Jr., whom she married after the physical relationship with Mr. Nazre ended, is not. But he is well known in New York and has become the object of considerable fascination in the tech world.

Mr. Fletcher, known as Buddy, has recently been in the news for suing the Dakota, the apartment building on Central Park West, for not letting him buy a fifth unit. Mr. Fletcher, a former president of the Dakota board, said he needed the new rooms, which adjoin his main apartment, to accommodate his growing family that includes not only Ms. Pao but also their young daughter.

Mr. Fletcher, who is black, is accusing the Dakota of racial discrimination and defamation. The Dakota responded to the suit by saying its concerns were not racial but financial: it did not think that Mr. Fletcher could afford another apartment.

An account of the suit in The New York Times noted that in 2003 and 2006, workmen on Mr. Fletcher’s Connecticut estate had accused him of sexual harassment. Mr. Fletcher denied the allegations, which were settled out of court. He declined to respond to a request for comment.

Before the marriage, Mr. Fletcher had lived at the Dakota with his longtime boyfriend, Hobart V. Fowlkes Jr.


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Ms. Pao’s husband, Alphonse Fletcher Jr., who is suing the board of the Dakota, where they live, contending defamation and racial discrimination. Credit Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

“I must admit that I do not know Ellen as intimately as I obviously know Buddy,” Mr. Fowlkes wrote in an e-mail. “However, my interactions with Ellen have never been anything but positive.”

He added that he was “extremely touched” that they asked him to be the godfather of their daughter, “given the circumstances.”

FORGET about the Facebook I.P.O. For some entrepreneurial women, Ms. Pao’s lawsuit was the more significant event of the last month.

“When the news broke, we stopped what we were doing and were, like, ‘Whoa,’ ” said Claire Mazur, a founder of Of a Kind, an e-commerce start-up based in New York.

Ms. Mazur said she never had a problem getting meetings with venture capitalists. “But it’s definitely harder to talk to male investors who don’t have as much experience with retail and fashion,” she said. “That kind of personal connection can be key to getting funding.”

Or, as another e-commerce entrepreneur put it, “You’re trying to explain to a man why shopping is fun.”

Speaking only on the condition of anonymity — you never can tell whom you’re going to be asking for money — some entrepreneurs are more despairing.

One woman said she interviewed at a top venture firm in 2000 after coming out of business school. “I was told point-blank that they once had a woman and it didn’t work out,” she said. “That was 12 years ago and they haven’t had a single woman partner since.”

Kleiner, whatever its problems, actually hired women. So this executive worries that the message of the case to others will be: We were right to stick with the guys. She said she just got off the phone with a venture-backed chief executive who found out she was pregnant. The board was already moving to dump her.


The cold stats: Women make up just 9.1 percent of the board members of Silicon Valley companies, compared with 16 percent of Standard & Poor’s 500 companies, according to Spencer Stuart, the headhunting firm. The National Venture Capital Association estimates, based on a recent survey, that only about 11 percent of investing partners at venture firms are women.

The ratio is not much higher for the entrepreneurs these firms back. In 2009, only 11 percent of companies that received venture backing had a female C.E.O. or founder, according to Dow Jones VentureSource.

IT’S a retro state of affairs, although that isn’t stopping Silicon Valley from protecting its own, which means Kleiner. One Kleiner-backed woman said in an interview that she didn’t think much of Ms. Pao’s suit. “Anybody can sue anybody for anything, right?” Then she called back and said that she had now read the blogs and news articles about it, that the whole thing was a mess, that she was speaking out of ignorance and could she just stay out of it?

Few lawsuits like this make it to a jury, but Ms. Pao’s case might be an exception. And some on both sides want the case to go to trial. Any settlement by Kleiner could look like an acknowledgment of guilt. The firm, meanwhile, is playing as aggressive a defense as it dares, given the legal constraints.

Owen Thomas, a former Valleywag gossip columnist and a longtime Silicon Valley observer, saw the situation this way: “If a tenth of this is true, Kleiner Perkins has a problem.”

The women of the firm are certainly not united behind Ms. Pao. One of them, Beth Seidenberg, a general partner, took the unusual step of issuing a statement.

“I was drawn to the firm because of its diversity and have excelled here as have other women,” she said. “Everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed” at Kleiner. In an interview, she repeated those points.


Last week, Mr. Doerr posted a lengthy message on the firm’s Web site, saying Kleiner Perkins would “vigorously defend our reputation.” He did not mention his former aide by name. The next day, Kleiner announced that it was hiring a new female partner.

Christine Haughney and Jenna Wortham contributed reporting.
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Re: It’s Silicon Valley 2, Ellen Pao 0: Fighter of Sexism Is

Postby admin » Sun Jul 12, 2015 12:59 am

Pension Funds Sue on a Deal Gone Cold
By RACHEL ABRAMS
FEBRUARY 24, 2014

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The hedge fund of Alphonse Fletcher Jr. has been described by a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee as having elements of a Ponzi scheme.Credit Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Sitting around a table in Baton Rouge, La., in February 2008, a handful of board members of the Firefighters’ Retirement System of Louisiana heard an investment pitch that would later come back to haunt them.

Their consultant, Joe Meals, said that others had already jumped at the chance to invest with Alphonse Fletcher Jr., a flashy Wall Street financier whom Mr. Meals described as a long-established hedge fund manager, according to video recordings. The fund was offering essentially a 12 percent guaranteed return, according to Mr. Meals, secured by a third-party investor, and the opportunity was so hot the board would have to make a decision that day.

“I can tell you, it won’t be on the table this time next month,” Mr. Meals told the group, according to the video recordings. “It won’t take 30 days for somebody else to want it.”

The firefighters’ system eventually said yes, and along with two other pension funds — the Municipal Employees’ Retirement System and the New Orleans Firefighters’ Pension and Relief Fund — invested a combined $100 million in one of Mr. Fletcher’s funds, FIA Leveraged. As they understood it, the fund would invest in liquid securities that could be sold in a matter of weeks.

The details sounded, as one board member put it, “too good to be true.”

In fact, they were.

Mr. Fletcher’s hedge fund has since been described by a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee as having elements of a Ponzi scheme, and four retirement systems are fighting to recover their money. A federal judge is scheduled to rule in March on a plan to liquidate the fund’s assets, which the trustee deemed “virtually worthless” in a report last November.

The pension funds, which handle the retirement benefits for thousands of public employees in Louisiana, can only hope to get their money back through various civil lawsuits, the most recent of which was filed in the middle of January.

The mere mention of the word Ponzi these days summons the specter of Bernard L. Madoff, but Mr. Fletcher insists that is not the case here. “I have never supervised anything even remotely resembling a Ponzi. I am not the black Madoff,” Mr. Fletcher, who is African-American, said in a related bankruptcy proceeding last year.

The trustee, Richard Davis, who was appointed in 2012 after Mr. Fletcher’s main fund, Fletcher International, filed for bankruptcy protection, concurs in part. “In Madoff, it was an easy lesson,” he said in an interview. “It’s a little more complex here.”

Millions of dollars have been lost, that much is certain. The explanation of how that happened and who is responsible is still emerging, but the cast, in addition to Mr. Fletcher, includes “those we normally think of as creating a line of protection against such fraud,” as Mr. Davis put it in his report. Named in various lawsuits are the consultant, Mr. Meals; the administrator of the hedge fund, Citco; and its auditor, Grant Thornton, which resigned as auditor after overstating a related fund’s value by $80 million, according to court documents.

Mr. Fletcher, who did not respond to requests for comment for this article, recently described the bankruptcy estate’s assets as “valuable,” according to court filings, and he has disputed many of the accusations made by the retirement systems and the trustee. Warren J. Martin Jr. of the law firm Porzio, Bromberg & Newman, who is representing one of Mr. Fletcher’s entities in a related bankruptcy, declined to comment.

Mr. Fletcher, who is known as Buddy, is no stranger to litigation, and the action by the Louisiana pension funds is just the latest twist in a dramatic personal narrative.

A former Wall Street whiz kid, Mr. Fletcher once produced larger-than-life profits that earned him national media attention. Magazine profiles trumpeted the reported 350 percent returns of his firm, Fletcher Asset Management. A representative from the firm told the Firefighters’ Retirement System that one Fletcher fund had not had a losing month in over a decade.

A graduate of Harvard, Mr. Fletcher worked at Bear Stearns and then Kidder, Peabody & Company before starting his own fund in the early 1990s. While at Kidder, Mr. Fletcher, then in his 20s, managed a portfolio that reported $25 million in profit. When the firm did not pay him his expected bonus, he sued, claiming discrimination.

An arbitration panel eventually awarded Mr. Fletcher $1.3 million but ruled that Kidder had not discriminated against him.

In 2012, Granville Bowie, Kidder’s human resources manager during the time Mr. Fletcher was there, told Boston Magazine that the firm declined to pay the bonus because Mr. Fletcher had refused to tell anyone how he was generating his profits.


After he left Kidder, Mr. Fletcher returned to Bear Stearns, and later started Fletcher Asset Management. Things appeared to take off, and he became known as much for how he displayed his wealth as how he made it.

He bought four units in the Dakota, the Manhattan apartment building known for housing artistic icons including John Lennon, Lauren Bacall and Judy Garland. He pledged millions to charity.

But things at the Dakota turned sour in 2011, when Mr. Fletcher sued the building and accused it of discrimination, contending that the board declined to sell him a fifth apartment because he is black. The case attracted national media attention, and in some ways signaled the beginning of his firm’s downfall.

News reports widely quoted the board’s response, that it was his fund’s “apparent lack of profitability” that swayed its decision. The board denied it was discriminatory, and the case is still pending.

Weeks later, the Firefighters’ Retirement System tried to withdraw $17 million of its investment. Another pension fund made a similar request, according to a joint announcement all three pension systems that invested in FIA Leveraged made in July 2011 after a report in The Wall Street Journal raised questions about the investment.


Believing they were entitled to cash redemptions within a matter of weeks, the pension funds were dismayed to receive i.o.u.s due in two years. Over the next few months, more reports began to surface that questioned the soundness of Mr. Fletcher’s investments.

The Louisiana pension systems hired auditors to look over the books, and the S.E.C., the F.B.I. and the Louisiana inspector general’s office opened investigations. The S.E.C. and the F.B.I. declined to comment, but people briefed on the cases say they are continuing. Greg Phares, the administrative program director at the inspector general’s office, confirmed that the agency is continuing to work with other groups that are investigating the Fletcher case, but declined to comment further.

The pension funds now say that FIA Leveraged brought in no new investors after them, an allegation that the trustee’s report appears to back up.

“In many ways, the fraud here has many of the characteristics of a Ponzi scheme, where, absent new investor money coming in, the overall structure would collapse due to an inability to meet existing redemption and other obligations,” the report says.

When the pension money ran out, the trustee said, “the scheme was sustained for a time by continued use of inflated valuations,” resulting in a “serious loss” for the pension funds and other creditors.

“There’s a lot of things I wasn’t aware of until I read the trustee’s report,” said Robert L. Rust, the executive director of the municipal pension fund. “Like where the money went.”

According to the trustee’s report, $8 million went toward “Violet and Daisy,” a film produced by Mr. Fletcher’s brother, the screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher. Money from FIA Leveraged was used to buy a $27 million fund-of-funds business from Citco, the fund’s administrator, which the retirement systems contend was an inappropriate use of their investment.

In his report, Mr. Davis said that Mr. Fletcher’s main fund was most likely insolvent as of 2008 and that it had not made a single profitable trade since before the Louisiana pension funds even decided to invest.

Further, Mr. Davis revealed that Mr. Meals’s advisory firm, the Consulting Services Group, received a fee from Citco for pitching the Fletcher investment, something the pension funds say they did not know at the time. Mr. Meals, who no longer works for the firm and said he was self-employed, said the payment was returned to the retirement systems, something that Steven Stockstill, the director and legal counsel for the firefighters fund, disputes.

In the recordings, Mr. Meals is heard telling the firefighters fund that its money would be secured by $50 million from a third-party investor. If the cash returns dipped below 12 percent, that $50 million would make up the difference. As a trade-off, the pension funds agreed to forgo any return above 18 percent.

Mr. Davis highlighted the promise of guaranteed returns and the claim that one of Mr. Fletcher’s funds had no down months from June 1997 through December 2007, a period that included market-shaking events like the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management, the Russian debt crisis and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

“These red flags should have caused the administrators and auditors to have investigated, disclosed and stopped,” the trustee stated in his report. “None did.”

Citco declined to comment.

In January, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Retirement Fund, which invested $25 million with another fund of Mr. Fletcher’s that is also in bankruptcy, filed its own suit against Grant Thornton in Massachusetts Superior Court, contending that the company “failed to properly audit and value the holdings of a reportedly corrupt hedge fund manager.”

Representatives for the Massachusetts fund declined to comment. In an email, a spokeswoman for Grant Thornton said: “We are confident that our work complied with all professional standards and we intend to vigorously defend ourselves.”

The Louisiana retirement funds say that the Fletcher investment stung but was not catastrophic. “The system is financially strong and none of our retirees or our members are in any jeopardy because of the diversification of the portfolio,” Mr. Rust said. “But we have a responsibility to go after the people who took the money.”
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Re: It’s Silicon Valley 2, Ellen Pao 0: Fighter of Sexism Is

Postby admin » Sun Jul 12, 2015 1:14 am

Ellen Pao Loses Silicon Valley Bias Case Against Kleiner Perkins
By DAVID STREITFELD
MARCH 27, 2015

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Ellen Pao, center, now interim chief of the social media news site Reddit, outside of the courthouse on Friday. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — One of Silicon Valley’s most famous venture capital firms prevailed on Friday over a former partner in a closely watched suit claiming gender discrimination, but hardly got away unscathed.

The plaintiff, Ellen Pao, had accused the firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, of discriminating against her in the course of her employment and eventual dismissal.

The decision handed Kleiner a sweeping victory in a case that had mesmerized Silicon Valley with its salacious details while simultaneously amplifying concerns about the lack of diversity in the technology industry.

Even with her loss in the case, Ms. Pao’s suit succeeded in prompting debate about women in technology and venture capital, said Deborah Rhode, a law professor at Stanford University.

“This case sends a powerful signal to Silicon Valley in general and the venture capital industry in particular,” Ms. Rhode said. “Defendants who win in court sometimes lose in the world outside it.”

Kleiner and its lawyers did little to celebrate the win, with the lawyer Lynne C. Hermle saying that it “never occurred to me for a second that a careful and attentive jury like this would find either discrimination or retaliation.” Kleiner issued a statement saying it was committed to supporting women.

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Ellen Pao spoke to the news media after a jury rejected her claims of gender discrimination on Friday. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Ms. Pao waved to the jury as she left the courtroom for the last time, a smile fixed on her face. “If I’ve helped to level the playing field for women and minorities in venture capital, then the battle was worth it,” she said in a brief news conference.

Her suit, filed in Superior Court here, claimed that Kleiner did not promote her because of her gender, that it retaliated against her for complaining, that it failed to prevent gender discrimination and that it fired her in 2012 for complaining.

The suit asked $16 million in compensatory damages plus punitive damages. Ms. Pao is now interim chief of the social media news site Reddit.

After the jurors rejected each of her four claims, they were found to be one vote short on a claim about her termination. For two hours, doubt reigned, the media unspooled possible outcomes and the jury went back to work. In the end, the problem seemed more juror confusion than anything else, and the claim went down with the others.

The jurors said in interviews they did not take on the role of “conscience of this community,” as one of Ms. Pao’s lawyers had urged in the closing arguments. They focused on the facts at hand, and concluded it was Ms. Pao’s own performance that held her back.

One juror, Steve Sammut, 62, said it was difficult coming to a verdict.

“We were split there for a while,” he said, adding that a key point was how Ms. Pao’s reviews at Kleiner deteriorated over time. He also said the witnesses for Kleiner, most of whom came from the firm, helped seal the case.

Another juror, Marshalette Ramsey, 41, said she believed Ms. Pao was discriminated against. The male junior partners at Kleiner “had those same character flaws that Ellen was cited with,” but they were promoted, she said.

“I’m going home emotional,” said Ms. Ramsey.


Ms. Pao joined Kleiner in 2005 as chief of staff to John Doerr, the firm’s best-known partner. She became a junior investing partner, failed to make senior partner and was fired in 2012.

It was the most prominent trial in Silicon Valley in memory for many reasons, including Kleiner Perkins’s reputation as the quintessential venture capital firm. But the suit, filed in 2012, also came as the freewheeling ways of the male-dominated technology industry increasingly drew scrutiny.

Episodes of men behaving badly make the news frequently here, whether it is sexism or harassment in the workplace or just derogatory attitudes toward women. Critics are increasingly drawing a straight line between such behavior and the small percentage of women who are engineers and executives, and the even smaller percentage of women who are venture capitalists.

According to research from Babson College, the percentage of female venture capitalists is 6 percent, down from 10 percent at the peak of the dot-com boom in 1999.

The suit and the trial introduced a number of colorful phrases that were said to have been uttered to or about Ms. Pao. Most were heavily disputed by the defense, but they made it appear that Kleiner has been slow to evolve since it was formed in the early 1970s.

“Kleiner Perkins has been significantly tainted by the facts that have come out in this proceedings,” Ms. Rhode of Stanford said.

During the trial, numerous details emerged, including Mr. Doerr’s telling an investigator that Ms. Pao had a “female chip on her shoulder.” Chi-Hua Chien, a partner, said women should not be invited to a dinner with former Vice President Al Gore because they “kill the buzz.” A senior partner at the time, Ray Lane, joked to a junior partner that she should be “flattered” that a colleague showed up at her hotel room door wearing only a bathrobe. Another senior partner, Ted Schlein, seemed never to have heard of the exhortation of Sheryl Sandberg, a senior Facebook executive, that women should “sit at the table,” testifying, “I really don’t think it was a very big deal to us who sits at a table or who does not.”

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John Doerr, right, a Kleiner Perkins partner, outside of court earlier this month. During testimony, Mr. Doerr agreed that the percentage of female venture capitalists was “pathetic,” though he came across as an ambivalent figure during his hours on the stand. Credit Robert Galbraith/Reuters

Ms. Pao is married to Alphonse Fletcher Jr., a Wall Street financier whose hedge fund is bankrupt. Pension funds are suing to recover their money amid accusations of fraud. Kleiner tried to insert Mr. Fletcher into the case, which would have raised questions about Ms. Pao’s motives in bringing suit, but Judge Kahn refused to allow it.

Mr. Fletcher did not attend the trial.

In a sign that the struggle over the place of women in Silicon Valley is only beginning, gender discrimination suits have recently been filed against two prominent companies, Facebook and Twitter.

The suit against Twitter, by a former engineer, Tina Huang, claims that the process for promotion is not clear and is biased in favor of men, a claim that Ms. Pao also made about Kleiner. The suit seeks class-action status. Twitter said in a statement that it was committed “to a diverse and supportive workplace.”

The suit against Facebook is narrower. Chia Hong, a former manager, says she was “discriminated against, harassed, and retaliated against” because of her sex and race, culminating in her termination. Ms. Hong is represented by Lawless & Lawless, one of the firms representing Ms. Pao. Facebook has said that it works “extremely hard” on diversity and believes that it treated the employee in question fairly.


The Kleiner trial, which took 24 days before it went to the jury on Wednesday, offered a glimpse of the Silicon Valley elite at work and play.

Ms. Pao accidentally learned about the dinner Mr. Gore was having because she was living in the same San Francisco building. She met Mr. Fletcher at an exclusive fellowship that Mr. Doerr recommended her for. Even after being fired by Kleiner in 2012, Ms. Pao was paid $33,333 a month for the next six months, plus benefits and bonus. Most Americans could never imagine such handsome remuneration, terminated or not.

But it was competitive and even combative, with sharp elbows and tears. Ms. Pao, it emerged in testimony, compiled a “resentment” chart of colleagues who, she believed, wronged her. People worked through holidays and maternity leaves. The pressure to discover the newest new thing was immense. One great investment — a Google, a Facebook, an Amazon — could make your reputation for life.

As for the rest of life, there was not much of it for the junior partners. One of the stranger points brought up in testimony was how Ms. Pao, before she was married, had dated a colleague for six months without ever realizing he was still living with his wife.
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Re: It’s Silicon Valley 2, Ellen Pao 0: Fighter of Sexism Is

Postby admin » Sun Jul 12, 2015 2:15 am

Reddit chief Ellen Pao resigns after receiving 'sickening' abuse from users
bu Martin Pengelly in New York and Kevin Rawlinson
10 July 2015

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‘I’m just another human,’ says outgoing boss, who was forced to quit by users angry about alleged attempts to curb the site’s ‘anything goes’ tone

Image
In an April interview with Katie Couric for Yahoo News, Ellen Pao says women are often undermined in the workplace in countless small ways.

Ellen Pao, the interim chief executive of Reddit, has resigned following a user backlash against the sacking of one of the company’s employees.

Pao, who became an international symbol for gender imbalance in Silicon Valley when she lost a landmark discrimination lawsuit, leaves after around eight months in the job and will be replaced by the site’s co-founder Steve Huffman.

Last week she apologised for letting down users after Reddit sacked its director of talent, Victoria Taylor, who was responsible for the site’s Ask Me Anything forums. Taylor’s dismissal led to a petition from users demanding Pao’s removal that attracted more than 210,000 signatures. It also led to Pao reportedly receiving death threats from users angry at her handling of the situation.

Reddit made the announcement in a statement on Friday afternoon saying it was by “mutual agreement”, even as Pao signalled “a different view” from the board.

But, in a bid to take the sting out of any acrimony, both Reddit’s board member Sam Altman and Pao wrote pleas for compassion after the harassment.

Pao urged those users who attacked her to remember that she was “just another human; I have a family, and I have feelings”. In a resignation statement, she wrote that she has seen “the good, the bad and the ugly on Reddit. The good has been off-the-wall inspiring, and the ugly made me doubt humanity”.

She wrote: “Everyone attacked on Reddit is just another person like you and me. When people make something up to attack me or someone else, it spreads, and we eventually will see it. And we will feel bad, not just about what was said.”

Altman said that it was “sickening to see some of the things” that the site’s users had written about Pao.

He wrote: “The reduction in compassion that happens when we’re all behind computer screens is not good for the world. People are still people even if there is internet between you.”

“If the Reddit community cannot learn to balance authenticity and compassion, it may be a great website but it will never be a truly great community.”

Disagreements, he said, were not a problem. But, in an apparent reference to messages sent to Pao, he wrote that death threats would not be tolerated and that users who sent them would be banned.

Pao’s relationship with Reddit’s users deteriorated when the site, which was known for its “anything goes” atmosphere, began an anti-harassment drive in May this year.

It caused further anger when that led to the shutting down of a handful of sections that “allow their communities to use [them] as a platform to harass individuals when moderators don’t take action”.

Reddit’s management was accused by some of seeking to limit free speech, although the site’s bosses insisted they were “banning behaviour, not ideas”.


Relations soured further with the dismissal of Taylor. Many of the unpaid moderators who keep Reddit’s subbranches – or subreddits – running, shut down their sections in protest.

Pao wrote that she was leaving Reddit, which attracted more than 163 million visitors last month, because the “board asked me to demonstrate higher user growth in the next six months than I believe I can deliver while maintaining Reddit’s core principles”.

Altman’s statement said: “We are thankful for Ellen’s many contributions to Reddit and the technology industry generally. She brought focus to chaos, recruited a world-class team of executives, and drove growth.

“She brought a face to Reddit that changed perceptions, and is a pioneer for women in the tech industry. She will remain as an advisor to the board through the end of 2015. I look forward to seeing the great things she does beyond that.”

Regarding Huffman, the statement said: “We’re very happy to have [him] back. Product and community are the two legs of Reddit, and the board was very focused on finding a candidate who excels at both (truthfully, community is harder), which Steve does.

“He has the added bonus of being a founder with 10 years of Reddit history in his head. Steve is rejoining Alexis, who will work alongside Steve with the new title of ‘cofounder’.”

Pao was hired by Reddit in April 2013. In November 2014 she was appointed interim chief executive after the resignation of Yishan Wong, who left after an argument with the board over the running of the company.

Pao made international headlines earlier this year when she lost a landmark sex discrimination lawsuit against a former employer, the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

She was told to pay legal costs of nearly $1m (£644,000), which her former employer indicated it would waive if she agreed not to appeal the court’s decision. However, it emerged last month that she had decided to go ahead with a legal challenge.

Pao’s case raised issues surrounding gender inequality at elite Silicon Valley technology and venture capital firms. Pao’s lawyers argued she was an accomplished junior partner passed over for promotion because the firm she worked for, Kleiner Perkins, used different standards to judge men and women. Pao claimed she was fired when she complained about discrimination.

During the case lawyers said Pao was subjected to demeaning treatment including being cut out of emails and meetings by a male colleague with whom she broke off an affair and being given a book of erotic poetry by a partner at the company.

Kleiner Perkins’ attorney Lynne Hermle countered during the trial that Pao failed as an investor at the company and sued to get a big payout as she was being shown the door.

Pao lost the case, but it was seen as a watershed moment, as former employees at Twitter and Facebook launched discrimination cases in its wake.
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Re: It’s Silicon Valley 2, Ellen Pao 0: Fighter of Sexism Is

Postby admin » Sun Jul 12, 2015 2:16 am

Reddit announces anti-harassment policy in attempt to curb cyberbullying
Associated Press
Thursday 14 May 2015

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The online discussion forum said in a blog post that it is ‘unhappy with harassing behavior’ and plans to review individual cases and possibly block users

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Reddit: ‘We’ve seen many conversations devolve into attacks against individuals.’ Photograph: Public Domain

Reddit, the online discussion forum known for its free-wheeling ethos, is enacting an anti-harassment policy while still trying to keep its roots as a place for free expression.

Reddit said in a blog post on Thursday that it is “unhappy with harassing behavior” on the site and its survey data shows that users are too. It has been reviewing its community guidelines for the past six months.

“We’ve seen many conversations devolve into attacks against individuals,” the San Francisco company wrote in a blog post, adding that it is also seeing more and different types of harassment than in the past. For example, some users are harassing people across platforms and posting links on Reddit to private information on other sites, it said.

Reddit’s interim CEO is Ellen Pao, who this year lost a high-profile gender-discrimination lawsuit against a prominent venture capital firm. That case highlighted issues of gender imbalance and working conditions for women in Silicon Valley.

Reddit said in its blog post that it defines harassment as “systematic and/or continued actions to torment or demean someone”, making them fear for their safety or conclude that the social-networking and news site is not a safe place to express ideas.

Users being harassed can report the message or post via email. Reddit said it will handle each situation separately, and responses could include banning users.

Earlier this year, Reddit said it would remove photos, videos and links with explicit content if the person in the image hasn’t given permission for it to be posted.

That change came about six months after hackers obtained nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities and posted them to social media sites, including Reddit and Twitter.
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Re: It’s Silicon Valley 2, Ellen Pao 0: Fighter of Sexism Is

Postby admin » Sun Jul 12, 2015 2:39 am

Reddit users flee to Swiss copy Voat after harassment clampdown
by Alex Hern @alexhern
15 June 2015

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Clone site buckling under influx of new users seeking a ‘censorship-free’ experience after Reddit banned five subreddits

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Reddit’s Alien logo and CEO Ellen Pao, who has received much abuse from angry Redditors. Photograph: Getty Images

Disgruntled Redditors have decamped en masse to a Swiss-based clone of Reddit called Voat after the site’s administrators banned five subreddits for harassing behaviour.

In response to the deluge, Voat, which mimics Reddit’s design and layout (albeit using “subverses” rather than “subreddits”) was forced to ask for bitcoin donations to keep the site live.

“We are sorry to see Reddit change like this, in this way, in such an accelerated fashion. We would have never anticipated such events,” wrote Atko, Voat’s founder and chief technology officer.

“We are not ready for such a huge influx of new users and haven’t prepared for such a large and sudden increase either.”

The site, which describes itself as “a censorship-free community platform”, has since started asking for bitcoin donations to keep the servers running.

Among the subreddits banned from Reddit were “hamplanethatred” and “fatpeoplehate”, both of which were focussed on harassing and abusing overweight people, and racist forum “shitniggerssay”. Reddit’s admin staff emphasised in a statement that “we’re banning behaviour, not ideas.”

Redditor splattypus summarised the rationale in the Out of the Loop subreddit: “As long as you can keep it 100% confined within the subreddit, anything within legal bounds still goes. As soon as content/discussion/‘politics’ of the subreddit extend out to other users on reddit, communities, or people on other social media platforms with the intent to harass, harangue, hassle, shame, berate, bemoan, or just plain fuck with, that’s when there’s problems. [Fatpeoplehate] et al. was apparently struggling with this part.”

Much of the opprobrium from Reddit users has been focused on the site’s chief executive, Ellen Pao, who took over the top job in November 2014. In March, the site made the first overtures towards cleaning up its notoriously uncontrollable community, adding new rules to its privacy policy preventing the posting of “involuntary pornography”. Now that it’s tightened up its stance on harassment as well, Pao is personally in the firing line. New posts on the front page of Voat include the declaration that “I am friend-zoaning [sic] Reddit, soon to be my ex. Her mother Ellen is a crazy controlling bitch”.

Elsewhere, Reddit has returned to normal. After a day of posts about the multiple bans, the site is now dominated by discussion of Bethesda Softwork’s upcoming post-apocalyptic video game Fallout 4.
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Re: It’s Silicon Valley 2, Ellen Pao 0: Fighter of Sexism Is

Postby admin » Sun Jul 12, 2015 2:48 am

Reddit users rebel over banning of fat-shaming subforums
by Jessica Elgot
June 11, 2015

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Chief executive Ellen Pao is target of derogatory posts after she leads campaign to clean up harassment on the site

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Ellen Pao, interim chief executive of Reddit. Users have begun a petition calling on her to resign for what they say is an attack on the free speech they previously enjoyed. Photograph: Eric Risberg/AP

Rebellious Reddit users have swamped the site with derogatory comments about staff and images of overweight people after its decision to ban several subforums.

On Reddit’s r/all page there was an overnight deluge of derogatory postings about Ellen Pao, the interim chief executive, who has led a campaign to clean up harassment on the site.

Five subreddits were banned in total: two which made fat-shaming comments, one racist, one transphobic and one which targeted gamers. One of the subreddits, r/fatpeoplehate, had more than 150,000 subscribers; the others all had under 4,000.

Since the announcement, many alternative obesity-related subreddits have been created, and users have begun a petition calling on Pao to resign for what they claim is an attack on the unfettered free speech they had previously enjoyed on the site.

Crude photoshopped images of Pao on an obese body were appearing, and the popular photography subreddit r/pics was briefly flooded with images of overweight people.

Wednesday’s announcement made it clear that direct attacks on identifiable individuals were the issue, and implied that the site would still notionally allow racism and other kinds of hate speech, if an individual was not the target. Users have argued that subreddits are their own, insular communities, with active policies not to link to other forums, and it would be unusual for anyone unsuspecting to come across them.

In recent years, Reddit has made small inroads into the free-for-all atmosphere that had existed on the site, closing down forums dedicated to suggestive images of children and young teens, “creep shots” of unaware women, as well as a subreddit that had distributed pictures of hacked celebrity nudes.

Reddit bosses have, however, allowed many pages critical of them to exist, including r/chairmanpao and r/paoyongyang.

Wednesday’s announcement about the subreddit closures said staff wanted “as little involvement as possible but will be involved when needed to protect privacy and free expression, and to prevent harassment”.

“We’re banning behaviour, not ideas,” the statement continued. “We want to be open about our involvement: we will ban subreddits that allow their communities to use the subreddit as a platform to harass individuals when moderators don’t take action.” The statement was posted by Pao, as well as Jessica Moreno, head of community and support, and founder Alexis Ohanian.
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Re: It’s Silicon Valley 2, Ellen Pao 0: Fighter of Sexism Is

Postby admin » Sun Jul 12, 2015 9:13 pm

How Ellen Pao lost her job but survived Reddit's swamp of trolls
by Beth Winegarner
12 July 2015

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Silicon Valley’s most controversial executive has personified the discrimination and harassment directed at women in technology and on the internet. A look back at her landmark gender lawsuit and her ouster at Reddit reveals how much – and how little – has changed

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Ellen Pao leaves the California superior court civic center courthouse during a lunch break from her trial in March. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Beth Winegarner in San Francisco


When Ellen Pao took the witness stand four months ago, accusing the most powerful venture-capital firm in the most powerful new industry of pervasive sexism against her and powerful women like her, she talked about the “right path”.

Pao’s own attorney asked the 46-year-old executive why she continued to fight Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the firm that accused her of being a bad employee, even as she had become the top executive at Reddit, the influential social-media website that is infamous for nothing if not its trolls. The site’s former contributors – Pao now among them – describe it as a kind of misogynist fire swamp where “harassment swarms”, even and especially for an accidental feminist champion like its suddenly former CEO.

“I think there should be equal opportunities for women and men to be venture capitalists,” Pao said calmly that March morning as reporters, technology observers and a jury listened closely to the woman her co-workers said lacked “thought leadership”.

“I wanted to make sure my story was told.”

Now that Pao has suddenly resigned from Reddit, amid both user revolt and increasing recrimination from the landmark workplace-discrimination suit she lost this year, that story has only become more intriguing. Both the international profile of her trial and her ensuing decision to curb Reddit’s trolls made Pao a champion for women and minorities in 2015, and those who have followed her from the courtroom to the subreddit comments remained assured that such a bold legacy would continue.

Reddit board member Sam Altman said after Pao’s apparently mutually agreed exit on Friday that Reddit would not reverse its crackdown on subreddits devoted to harassment – and at least one moderator who participated in recent protests against Pao said those changes were among her best decisions during eight transformative, tumultuous months at the helm.

“Ellen specifically stated: ‘We’re banning behavior, not ideas,’” Jared Shenefield, who moderates Reddit’s cooking forum, told the Guardian on Saturday. “I think that was a good move – probably the best move since she became the interim CEO.”

Pao stepped down amid massive protests from moderators like Shenefield, upset by the sudden firing of talent director Victoria Taylor, who coordinated Reddit’s popular “Ask Me Anything” feature, and from users angered by the shuttering of five hate-filled forums, including r/fatpeoplehate and r/transfags. A petition calling for Pao’s ouster snowballed, gathering more than 213,000 signatures.

Pao denied that the unrest drove her out: “Ultimately, the board asked me to demonstrate higher user growth in the next six months than I believe I can deliver while maintaining reddit’s core principles,” she wrote in a Reddit post.

Pao’s two-plus years deep in the business world’s ultimate battle of modern sexism and out in front of corporate reform is a lesson for the victims of that bias.

The “terrorists” of the internet have their first scalp, lending credibility to what one industry insider called “the Pao-haters”.

Pao’s escape from “hell” – as more than one Silicon Valley watcher put it – has also left an industry reckoning with the all-too-familiar reality of gender and racial bias.

REDDIT SHITSHOW CONTINUES UNABATED

Mike Isaac, reporting for the NYT:

Ellen Pao, the interim chief executive of Reddit, resigned from the online message board on Friday after a week of ceaseless criticism from scores of angry users over the handling of an employee departure.


Reddit: a terrible, childish community posting on a site owned by a terrible, dumbass company. Good luck to the next CEO.

-- Daring Fireball, by John Gruber


Even in defeat, it appears, Pao still serves as an emblem of the tech world’s backward treatment of women and minorities – and an example of how to fight back.

Through a spokeswoman, Pao declined to comment specifically on her resignation or future plans, and her attorneys did not respond to a request for an update on her pending court appeal. Still, a look back at her journey through legal battles and unpopular reforms at Reddit reveals just how galvanizing and transformative this high-tech heroine has become.

The trial that shook Silicon Valley – and shocked the world

Image
Ellen Pao speaks on ABC.

Improbable as it may have seemed for the most famous fighter in the war against workplace discrimination, Pao began consulting for Reddit, of all places, soon after she was fired from Kleiner Perkins in late 2012.

Even as the social media site was confronting conspiracy theories around the Boston marathon bombing and corporate branded posts, Pao took a full-time position in business development and strategic partnerships for the site in April 2013.

When Reddit CEO Yishan Wong resigned suddenly last November, Pao stepped in. Wong later wrote on the Q&A site Quora that the top job at Reddit was “incredibly stressful and draining”, and after two and a half years, the work was having “significantly detrimental” effects on his personal life.

Altman, the Reddit board member who also serves as president of seed funder Y Combinator, said in an “Ask Me Anything” chat on Friday that when Wong quit, Pao stepped in. “She walked into an incredibly difficult situation and [moved] the ball a good bit down the field for reddit,” he said.

Pao, a self-described introvert, has said that she never set out to become a feminist figurehead. She was hired at Kleiner Perkins in 2005 as senior partner John Doerr’s chief of staff, but Doerr later helped her transition into a junior investment role, where she bumped up against the numerous slights that formed the basis for her sex-bias lawsuit.

Another of Kleiner Perkins’ junior partners, Ajit Nazre, allegedly pressured Pao into having an affair. After she broke it off, he began retaliating against her, leaving her out of crucial email discussions and in-person meetings with potential clients that could have led to important deals, she testified.

Although Pao reported Nazre’s behavior to higher-ups, he stayed on at Kleiner Perkins; his only reprimand was receiving a smaller-than-expected bonus. Nazre was later fired after coming on to another junior partner – but not before he was promoted to a highly lucrative senior-partner position.

Pao portrayed her experience with Nazre as representative of the sexist culture at Kleiner Perkins and, to some extent, in Silicon Valley as a whole. She and a former partner at the firm testified about key networking events that excluded women, including a ski trip with potential business partners and a dinner party at the home of former vice-president Al Gore. She and another female partner were asked to play secretary at a Kleiner Perkins event; when they complained, at least one higher-up failed to understand why the request was offensive.

Meanwhile, Pao’s superiors testified that she was repeatedly criticized in performance reviews and ultimately fired for her behavior – behavior that is often lauded in men but criticized in women. She was accused of being too pushy and aggressive, and for elbowing in on other partners’ business deals. Paradoxically, her Kleiner Perkins colleagues also accused her of being too quiet, saying that she failed to “own the room”.

But the death-by-a-thousand-cuts sexism Pao described in court, and which many women report experiencing in the office daily, often isn’t enough to prove discrimination. The jury found that Pao’s gender wasn’t a factor in Kleiner Perkins’ decision not to make her a senior partner, and that her complaints were not a substantial reason for her termination.

Immediately following that verdict in March, Pao insisted that her loss in the landmark case, however devastating, did not mean that she had failed. To be sure, her story was being told – not just in the live blogs of technology websites read by insiders and discussed on Twitter at-replies, but across the world.

“If I’ve helped to level the playing field for women and minorities in venture capital, then the battle was worth it,” she said after the verdict. “The problem of gender discrimination in venture capital has received attention around the globe. While today’s outcome is a disappointment, I take consolation in knowing that people really listened.”

On Twitter, women were already showing that they had listened. The #ThanksEllen hashtag was lofted by users who were grateful Pao had taken on on Silicon Valley’s entrenched sexism.

“We don’t question the verdict; we appreciate the risk she took by telling her story,” Lori Hobson, a business developer at Function Engineering, said on Twitter. Another group took out a full-page newspaper ad that said, simply, “Thanks Ellen.”

As it turned out, Pao was just getting started.

The fall of ‘Chairman Pao’ – and Reddit’s unfinished business

By the time Pao’s trial began in February, pervasive discrimination and harassment directed at women in technology and on the internet had already metasticized from the stuff of at-replies to an international conversation – if not an all-out confrontation.

A video went viral last October illustrating more than 100 catcalls and come-ons a woman encountered during an eight-hour walk through New York City. The trolls came out for the maelstrom known as GamerGate to shine a spotlight on the violent harassment and threats lobbed at outspoken women in video-game culture.

That Pao challenged discriminatory patterns at Kleiner Perkins and, by virtue of that extended conversation, the rest of Silicon Valley, raised unspoken questions about her leadership at Reddit. Forums there served as a hive-mind for GamerGate, hosted leaked naked celebrity photos and fostered attacks on women, overweight people and minorities.

“Reddit can be seen as a swamp of standing water that’s been allowed to breed pestilent mosquitoes,” said Katherine Cross, a former Reddit moderator and PhD student in sociology at the City University of New York, where she studies online abuse. “Even if one ignores the site, it has become increasingly difficult to ignore its effluence. Harassment swarms are ginned up by the website’s more toxic users and communities.”

Although Pao, who had taken over as Reddit’s interim leader four months earlier, was in the courtroom every day of her month-long trial, her thoughts clearly hadn’t strayed far from Reddit. Within days of the Kleiner Perkins verdict, Pao ended salary negotiations at Reddit, a tradition which studies have shown often put women at an economic disadvantage.

Pao had sought roughly $16m in past and future lost wages at trial, arguing that without Kleiner Perkins’ bias, she would have made a lot more money. The topic of pay inequity was fresh in Pao’s mind.

Two months later, Reddit announced a ban on any forums, or subreddits, “that allow their communities to use the subreddit as a platform to harass individuals when moderators don’t take action,” Pao wrote.

Cross, the former moderator and sometimes a target of GamerGate’s vitriol, called Pao’s reforms inspirational. “It was the first time someone at the site had publicly suggested the site had a responsibility to both its non-toxic users and the wider internet,” she told the Guardian.

Not everyone agreed. Angry Reddit users called her “Chairman Pao” and compared her to Adolf Hitler.

Mark VerHill, a longtime Reddit member, launched a petition under a pseudonym, calling for Pao to step down as CEO. He said users accused her of “suing her way to the top” and that her policies – championed by the women and minorities those policies were protecting – would run Reddit into the ground.

Other users and moderators felt similarly, insisting that communication channels between the site’s leaders, its paid forum administrators and its unpaid volunteers was nothing short of abysmal.

When the popular moderator Taylor was fired this month, the Pao reckoning began in earnest, and a number of moderators closed more than 300 subreddits for 24 hours.

Shenefield, the moderator who took /r/Cooking dark, said the revolt was meant to be pacifistic, not the beginning of an ouster: “Doing a blackout was the way to have our voices heard without being so hateful,” he told the Guardian. “It worked.”

Shut out of their favorite forums, Reddit users flocked to the petition, bringing more media attention to the tumult.

On Monday, Pao publicly acknowledged the communication gaps and apologized for Reddit’s “long history of mistakes”, but said it would take time for Reddit to deliver concrete results.

Less than five days later, she was out the door.

The accidental success of a user revolt against the accidental feminist hero of the Valley came as a surprise to many, especially considering that Reddit board members had expressed interest in hiring her as the site’s permanent CEO, as Kleiner Perkins attorneys told a San Francisco judge in February.

Already, concerns have blossomed that Reddit reforms initiated in Pao’s abrupt eight-month tenure would quickly become abandoned.

But Altman said in his AMA that wouldn’t happen. He urged Reddit’s community to learn to balance authenticity and compassion, saying that co-founder and new CEO Steve Huffman’s biggest challenge “will be continuing the work Ellen started to drive this forward”.

Altman denied that the petition or the hateful words aimed at Pao had anything to do with Pao’s resignation, saying he was surprised by how cruel Reddit users had been to her.

“While she wasn’t the CEO Reddit needed, she was not deserving of all the hate she received,” said Shenefield, the current Reddit moderator.

Journalist Susan Antilla, who broke the story of sexual harassment at Smith Barney and other Wall Street titans in the 1990s and later wrote Tales from the Boom-Boom Room about those scandals, noted that anyone hoping to change the tenor on Reddit – whose millions of users trend toward 18- to 29-year-old men – will face an uphill battle.

“The assumption by Pao-haters is that Taylor did nothing wrong and that Pao and management were wrong to fire her,” she said. “This is the tech world, folks, where firings and other disruptions are worn like a badge. Suck it up.”

Alexis Ohanion, who co-founded Reddit with Huffman in 2005, revealed in a Reddit post on Friday that firing Taylor was his decision, adding that Pao’s story is far from over: “I have admired her fearlessness and calm throughout our time together and look forward to following her impact on Silicon Valley and beyond.”

Cross, the former moderator turned target of the trolls, agreed, saying that Pao became a target herself – precisely because she made gender a topic of discussion and acknowledged that prejudice and harassment were as much of an unsolved problem as she left them.

“I think she’ll continue to be seen, for good and for ill, as someone who refused to be compliant about sexism,” she said of Pao, “both in the workplace and on social media.”
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Re: It’s Silicon Valley 2, Ellen Pao 0: Fighter of Sexism Is

Postby admin » Sun Jul 12, 2015 9:46 pm

Reddit’s Terrorists Have Won: Ellen Pao and the Failure to Rebrand Web 2.0
by Arthur Chu
7/11/15

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Photo Illustration by Alex Williams/The Daily Beast

Internet communities like Reddit have always been toxic environments that survive on the backs of unpaid labor, and attempts to corporatize them fail because of it.

Some of the worst trolls on the Internet are celebrating victory, as embattled interim CEO of Reddit Ellen Pao stepped down yesterday after what can charitably be described as a month or so of pure hell.

Let’s review the story briefly, since there’s a gushing torrent of BS that’s accompanying the joyful celebrating of Pao’s departure among Reddit’s userbase. Yes, there was a petition calling for Pao’s removal among Reddit’s users that crested 200,000 signatures before she stepped down.

The stated reason for this petition was the firing of Victoria Taylor, the Reddit administrator responsible for coordinating Reddit’s celebrated “AMA” or Ask Me Anything sessions where celebrities fielded unscripted questions from the users.

The narrative goes that after the loss of a beloved figure responsible for much of Reddit’s success—when you hear about Reddit in the media in a positive light, it’s usually because of a celebrity AMA—many subreddits were blacked out by the moderators in protest.

Now, the evil corporate interloper Ellen Pao, who was responsible for kicking out one of the few Reddit employees who really understood the subculture, has finally resigned due to the righteous blowback from her actions. One of Reddit’s founders, Steve Huffman, is coming back to lead Reddit again alongside his co-founder Alex Ohanian (who goes by u/kn0thing on Reddit), and all is well with the world again.

Sound good? Well, not so fast.

First of all, Ellen Pao didn’t fire Victoria Taylor. It turns out that was a decision Ohanian made in his capacity as “executive chairman,” as he appears to admit in a Reddit comment in the wake of Pao’s departure. For people whose primary motivation to hate on Reddit really was that they fired Victoria, it seems like an apology to Pao and a redirection of hate toward Ohanian is in order—one which has not been forthcoming.


The problem is that Reddit has been trying to sell a false bill of goods to investors all this time—something that Ohanian and Huffman and other true believers still cling to against all evidence.

Okay, some might argue, but the job of a CEO is to take the heat on behalf of her subordinates; no matter how unfair it might seem, the buck stops at the chief executive’s desk, not the executive chairman’s.

But it’s not just that Pao is resigning over a bad decision Ohanian made and Ohanian himself is staying. It’s that Pao was targeted by constant, vitriolic abuse during her tenure as CEO, abuse that even Reddit’s board—which normally tends to shamelessly flatter Reddit’s userbase when they talk about them at all—had to call out as “sickening.”

A lot of the personal attacks on Pao were racial—google “Chairman Pao” if you want to see how nasty redditors can be, and how they think repetitive name-calling on the level of a sixth grade bully is the pinnacle of online wit. Even more common than the racial remarks, though, were the ones digging at Pao because of her gender. In the interest of common decency I won’t tell you how to find those on Google, though you can probably figure it out.

Lots of these people are using Victoria Taylor as a fig leaf, claiming that because their anger is in response to a woman’s firing, the hate mob they’ve joined can’t possibly be misogynistic in its origins or its approach. But of course the hashtag #RedditRevolt didn’t start a week ago with the firing of Victoria Taylor, it started a month ago with the closure of the popular subreddit r/fatpeoplehate—a community based on, well, sending hateful messages to fat people (mostly women) who had the temerity to leave their photos on Facebook where redditors could find them instead of shunning all human contact and killing themselves.

We don’t know whether Pao was responsible for that decision, either, but that’s when the “Chairman Pao” meme and others started. Giving those people the cover of legitimacy by giving them a casus belli that doesn’t involve having to say the phrase “Fat People Hate” to major media outlets was Reddit’s biggest own goal here.

And, surprise surprise, it was an own goal scored by Ohanian, who wasn’t the one being blasted with death threats, rape threats, and images of himself being photoshopped into porn; who was, in fact, so clueless about the seething hate mob on Reddit that he—not Pao—made a callous joke about “popcorn” when the backlash against Victoria’s firing started. (And lo and behold, he was not fired.)


Internet communities like Reddit have always been toxic environments that survive on the backs of unpaid labor, and attempts to corporatize them because of it.

The real irony is that the legitimate anger behind the Reddit blackout, the reason the moderators of “respectable” subreddits like r/Books and r/Science found themselves throwing in with refugees from r/FatPeopleHate and r/ShitNiggersSay, was about bad behavior that mostly originated from subreddits like r/FatPeopleHate and r/ShitNiggersSay.

The open letter sent to Reddit about the blackout calls Victoria’s firing “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” stating that moderators were frustrated over Reddit failing to provide either administrative tools to let them do their job or put them in touch with Reddit employees who could. The specific problems called out are “brigading” and “alternative accounts”—that is, the fact that Reddit is known for people on nasty troll subreddits organizing to troll other subreddits or other websites en masse, and that banning individual accounts that do this is nearly pointless considering how easy it is to instantly come back under an alternate username.

Victoria was a beloved Reddit staff member precisely because she did a lot of work to shield VIPs from this side of Reddit when AMA time rolled around—and even then she wasn’t able to keep the racists of Reddit from damaging Reddit’s brand by flinging shit at Jesse Jackson’s AMA.

The problem is that Reddit has been trying to sell a false bill of goods to investors all this time—something that Ohanian and Huffman and other true believers still cling to against all evidence.

This is the idea that you can build a functional community without having to spend any money or effort to manage it—that it just happens spontaneously through the “wisdom of crowds.” The Web 2.0 dream has always been to outsource all of the hard jobs to your users—that unpaid enthusiasts will do all the work of creating your content, curating your content, and promoting your content out of love, and all you have to do is pay some techies to keep the lights on.

Reddit is built on this premise. Anyone can create a subreddit and be its absolute, iron-fisted (but unpaid) dictator on the theory that if they do a bad job of it someone will just create another subreddit and everyone will vote with their feet.

Reddit’s core feature, the upvoting/downvoting system, is rooted in the hope that democracy can replace curation—that if everyone who sees a comment is allowed to throw a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on it, the cream will rise to the top and the shit will sink out of sight without anyone having to do anything.

As a result, Reddit, with a userbase of millions and ambitions to be the “front page of the Internet,” is managed almost entirely by thousands of unpaid, sometimes anonymous volunteers and has an actual staff of less than a hundred people, all of whom are required to live in San Francisco in the name of efficiency (which may be the real reason Victoria was fired).

We can see how well that’s worked out. In practice, the ability of anyone to spawn their own subreddit plus the upvoting/downvoting mechanism leads to each subreddit being an angry little fiefdom fiercely dedicated to its own idea of consensus where dissenting opinions get downvoted into oblivion. A community that’s seen to have a particularly obnoxious bias, say, r/Android supposedly being in the tank for Google Nexus devices, will develop a community focused on attacking the first community for being a “circlejerk” (r/Androidcirclejerk) that has the exact opposite bias and exists to post memes mocking Google Nexus devices for how they’re overrated trash. Eventually one community will lose its patience and “brigade” another community, flooding it with hostile posts in order to show the other side how wrong they are, and mods are forced to stay up all night banning people until everything settles down again (and several users, usually female, have quit Reddit for good after being blasted with death threats).

This is exactly as petty and stupid as it sounds. It’s also as alienating to ordinary, non-basement-dwelling troll users as it sounds. It’s the reason Reddit has gotten a reputation for being attractive to creepy, obsessive people for whom the inherently toxic environment is a reasonable price to pay to be around people like them. These are often people who have very strong opinions that polite society, for obvious reasons, disapproves of—for being a haven for pedophiles, white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, and unrepentant sex criminals.

This is not good for Reddit’s brand. This probably has to do with why Reddit has apparently, for all the hype about the size of its userbase, never been profitable. This is why I personally stay the hell away from Reddit and advise my friends, especially my female friends, to do so as well.

Yes, Reddit does have content that is, as Pao put it in her resignation letter, “off-the-wall inspiring” alongside the stuff that makes one “doubt humanity.”

But that comes at a cost. The frustrated mods of the Reddit blackout lost their temper because they’ve been asked to do thousands of hours of unpaid, grueling, emotionally draining labor fighting against the trolls in order to keep the “respectable” side of Reddit usable. Out of the 70 or 80 paid employees at Reddit, Victoria Taylor was one of the only ones who ever participated in that side of the work it takes to keep Reddit alive, and Reddit apparently valued that so little that they let her go.

Specifically, Alexis Ohanian let her go. The same guy who founded Reddit on the principle that unregulated “free speech” will police itself, apparently failing to understand that it was people’s ability to trust Victoria to manage trolls and haters and keep the worst side of Reddit suppressed that allowed AMAs to happen at all.

This is a consistent problem not just for Reddit but for the whole Web 2.0 ethos. This denial that managing a community is hard work, this culture that makes millionaires of the “makers” who write the code for social media platforms but pays the “maintainers” who spend every day keeping them usable minimum wage or nothing at all.

It’s baked into the libertarian free speech absolutism of Silicon Valley culture. People like the founders of Reddit treat being “content-neutral” as almost a religious edict. Reddit won’t take even the smallest proactive steps to “restrict speech” unless forced—hence the long, controversial process it took to get rid of subreddits as openly awful as r/jailbait and r/beatingwomen. Thus we get the ridiculous spectacle of Reddit moderators staying up all night “playing whack-a-mole” to laboriously take down links to illegal content as they popped up while then-CEO Yishan Wong piously intoned “Every man is responsible for his own soul” as the reasoning for not taking down the subreddit specifically created to host those links.

That’s why, even as the racists of Reddit melt down over the closure of r/ShitNiggersSay, its sister subreddit r/CoonTown remains proudly open for business, because unlike r/ShitNiggersSay, r/CoonTown hasn’t been proven to “brigade” other sites—and Ohanian (again, not the supposed iron-fisted left-wing enforcer Ellen Pao) said, “We’re banning behavior, not ideas.”

And yet even this extremely weak response to bad behavior has launched a “revolt,” spreading hundreds of clones of r/FatPeopleHate all over the site in protest. Moderators of big subreddits complaining that Reddit leaves them alone and unequipped against hordes of trolls filling up their content with sludge get co-opted into a “movement” of those selfsame trolls defending their right to throw sludge. When Ellen Pao finally resigns after enduring weeks of this garbage, the top-voted commenter celebrating her departure is a troll with an account named for the Charleston shooter.

What can we learn from this, aside from what we already knew: that boards of directors tend to put female CEOs in charge in times of crisis because they predictably serve as useful lightning rods for backlash and hate?

That Reddit has to be dragged kicking and screaming to even be slightly more of a safe, decent place for ordinary people to hang out and to be slightly less of a massive lawsuit-waiting-to-happen stuffed with terrifying harassing trolls. That what good reputation Reddit enjoys, it enjoys due to the uncompensated labor of people whom Reddit has been abandoning to fight the trolls alone for years. And that top brass at Reddit like Alexis Ohanian are so deeply in denial about this that they’ll fire one of the women keeping Reddit from fully sinking into the mire and let another one of them be hounded out of her job without ever suggesting the site has a fundamental problem that needs to be fixed.

This is the face of Web 2.0, folks. This is the boondoggle they’ve been selling to all the Web 2.0 investors—that the “social web” is an untapped oil well when in reality it’s a seething underground pool of excrement and bile.

Pao tells us that upon her resignation she bluntly told the board that it was impossible for her to meet their six-month growth goals—either in terms of attracting new users to Reddit from among the normal, decent portion of the human race, or in terms of attracting revenue from advertisers who want to reach said new users without wading through a sea of racist memes and semen-stained photographs.

Some say that the “failure to meet growth goals” is a lie to cover that she’s actually leaving because of incessant harassment. I would argue that those are the same thing—that the reaction to Pao neatly demonstrates why Reddit’s attempt to monetize its social web have failed, why all attempts to monetize the social web have been extremely rough going—because the social web itself is poisoned.

Either way, Reddit is fucked.
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