Ellen Pao, on the stand, complained about Kleiner’s culture years earlier

Back in 2007, Ellen Pao, a junior investing partner at Kleiner Perkins, considered leaving the firm because of frustrations over cultural issues, she testified on the stand in a San Francisco courtroom Monday.

Then, she outlined some of her concerns in a conversation with Ray Lane, one of the firm’s senior partners, as well as in a follow-up email with John Doerr, the firm’s most visible senior partner.

Among her concerns was what she saw as the firm’s “loosey-goosey” approach to human resource issues, she said. She had had an affair with Ajit Nazre, another junior partner who was married, and he had made her working life difficult since she broke it off, she testified.

The result from those conversations with Lane and Doerr was that she stayed at the firm. “I thought John could move us forward,” she testified. “He was sincere about the cultural changes.”

Flash forward eight years to today. Pao, on the stand for the first time, is seeking $16 million in her gender discrimination lawsuit.

In a tan dress with a purple blazer, Pao has been speaking directly to the jury, under questioning from her own lawyer, Therese Lawless.

Despite criticism in her performance reviews for not “owning” the room at meetings, Pao’s testimony has been riveting, as described in live-blog updates from Heather Somerville.

In a bit of foreshadowing, Lawless began by asking Pao about what had led her to take up the issue of gender in the workplace with firm leaders in January 2012, before Lawless began the walk-through of Pao’s biography.

Pao said she was motivated by three things:

  • Three junior male partners were likely to be promoted to senior partner but no comparable woman would likely be promoted.
  • She was unhappy about the all-male events, such as two one dinner at Al Gore’s apartment and one ski trip.
  • She had learned that a fellow partner, Trae Vassallo, had complained about Nazre’s behavior but the firm did not do anything immediately.

She filed the suit, she said, when she learned that Aileen Lee, a senior partner, had not been invited to invest in a new fund, essentially being “demoted.”

Above: Ellen Pao, courtesy Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

 

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