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Live: Closing Arguments in Ellen Pao's Gender Discrimination Case Against Kleiner Perkins

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Vicki Behringer

Today we hear closing arguments for the month-long gender discrimination trial that has come to represent larger themes of sexism in Silicon Valley.

In many ways, the storied venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers has already lost, by having its name trampled and its inner workings exposed. But on the other hand, Ellen Pao hasn’t necessarily proved that this case is the one for all that symbolism to hang on. It’s a complicated case, and no one comes away looking good. Today, both sides will give it their best and last shot.

Here’s how Pao’s lawyer Alan Exelrod laid out the core of Pao’s case in his opening statement:

“The first theme in this case is was there a level playing field for Ellen Pao at Kleiner Perkins. We will prove to you that in this case there was not. The second theme is what happens to a women at Kleiner when a woman protests against sex discrimination and retaliation. She gets fired. And she gets retaliated against.”

And as the case has developed, here are the Pao side’s strongest arguments:

  1. Kleiner Perkins had a double standard between Pao and her male colleagues, as reflected in their performance reviews and promotions.
  2. Kleiner Perkins pushed Ellen Pao out the door after she filed her lawsuit.
  3. There was a pattern of sexist behavior at the firm, including all-male events and inappropriate gifts.
  4. Kleiner Perkins was slow to promote women until after the Pao lawsuit.

As for the other side, here’s how Kleiner Perkins’ lead attorney Lynne Hermle spoke in her rebuttal:

“This is not a case of a conspiracy of widespread discrimination and retaliation at Kleiner Perkins. This is the case of an employee who was never suited for the role of investing partner, an employee who never had a skill set. Kleiner Perkins gave Ellen Pao more than a level playing field, it gave her every opportunity on that playing field or off it.”

These are the strongest points scored by the Kleiner Perkins side:

  1. Kleiner Perkins has a good record on women. (You’ll note this is not actually what the case is about, but the larger optics do matter.)
  2. Pao didn’t deserve to be promoted because of her performance and her bad attitude.
  3. Pao’s story changed, including her description of the affair and her newfound concern for HR policies and training, and she plotted her potential case for years.
  4. There was no pattern of inappropriate or sexist events.

And here are Pao’s actual claims, which the jury will deliberate on in the coming days.

  1. Kleiner Perkins discriminated based on gender.
  2. Kleiner Perkins retaliated.
  3. Kleiner Perkins failed to take reasonable steps to prevent discrimination.
  4. Kleiner Perkins retaliated for this lawsuit by firing Pao.

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