The Ellen Pao trial: A “female chip on her shoulder” and being asked to take notes

The Ellen Pao vs. Kleiner Perkins trial is in session this morning, with Stephen Hirschfeld, a lawyer who conducted an independent investigation for the firm, back on the stand.

His testimony, under questioning by Pao’s lawyer, Therese Lawless, has provided a window into the thinking of some of key players in this drama at the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, before Pao, a junior partner at the firm, filed her $16 million sex-discrimination lawsuit.

Some of the key details, according to Hischfeld’s testimony:

  • John Doerr, the firm’s star partner who was Pao’s mentor, described Pao as someone with a “female chip on her shoulder.”
  • Doerr said he wanted to fire Ajit Nazre, the partner who Pao had had an affair with, but he was just one partner who didn’t have the power to fire another.
  • Ray Lane, a Kleiner partner who had been an executive at Oracle, didn’t want to fire Nazre because of his affair with Pao. He told Doerr that affairs with co-workers had been common at Oracle. Lane had had an affair with his secretary who he then married, Hirschfeld said Doerr said.
  • Doerr described a meeting in which Lane asked for someone to take notes. When no one volunteered, Lane asked Trae Vassallo, a junior partner, and Pao, who both declined. Doerr said that Lane was “oblivious to the optics” of calling on women to take notes.

On Wednesday, Doerr told the jury that venture firms would do better if they hired more women, as Heather Somerville reported.

But making it in venture is difficult. Out of the firm’s two dozen Kleiner junior partners, just five were promoted. The rest left. Three-quarters of them were men.

“What’s truly unusual, truly unusual, is for a partner to be promoted,” Doerr said from the witness stand. “The junior partner is an up-or-out role. We have no lifetime junior partners.”

Above: Therese Lawless, left, with her client, Ellen Pao (John Green/Bay Area News Group) 


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  • citizenkarma

    The scribe task is genderless and refusing it speaks volumes about the delusions of grandeur and character of the refuser. Ditto on gracefully bringing a visitor a cup of coffee.

    • Lila2004

      It *should* be genderless, but notice that the two people he asked to take notes were both women. That speaks to stereotyping. Why didn’t he ask a man to take notes?

      • Lysander Spooner

        They were also both *junior* partners. Junior employees are always expected to do the grunt work.

  • jane giddens

    Juicy stuff! 🙂 More please!!

  • Judy Galloway

    In Silicon Valley it is held against you if you are a female (especially if you are not a “beautiful” woman) and if you are over 50 fuggetaboutit 🙁