Sunday, March 29, 2015

Slow Saturday Special: Pao Wow

Sorry, readers, but I gave at the office:

"Jury says Silicon Valley firm did not discriminate" by Sudhin Thanawala, Associated Press  March 28, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO — A jury decided Friday that a prestigious venture capital firm did not discriminate or retaliate against a female employee in a case that debated gender imbalance and working conditions for women in Silicon Valley.

The jury in San Francisco reached the verdict in a lawsuit filed by Ellen Pao against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

The lawsuit claimed Pao was fired when she complained about discrimination at the firm.

Pao waved quickly to the jury as she left the courtroom after the verdict.

‘‘I have told my story and thousands of people have heard it. If I helped to level the playing field for women and minorities in venture capital, then the battle was worth it,’’ she said, adding that she will return to her career, family, and friends.

The verdict came after a judge ordered the panel to resume deliberations after a discrepancy was found in the initial vote count.

Jurors heard conflicting portraits of Pao during closing arguments. Her attorneys said she was an accomplished junior partner who was passed over for a promotion and fired because the firm used different standards to judge men and women.

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

‘‘It never occurred to me for a second that a careful and attentive jury like this would find either discrimination or retaliation and I’m glad to have been proven right about that,’’ Hermle said about the verdict.

A study introduced as evidence during the trial showed that women are grossly underrepresented as partners in the venture capital sector. Industry consultants say the case has already sparked some technology and venture companies to reexamine their cultures and practices for potential gender bias.

During her testimony, Pao told jurors that her lawsuit was intended in part to create equal opportunities for women in the venture capital sector. Hermle, however, accused Pao of having less altruistic motives.

‘‘The complaints of Ellen Pao were made for only one purpose: a huge payout for team Ellen,’’ Hermle said in her closing argument.

Kleiner Perkins officials also said Pao was a chronic complainer who twisted facts and circumstances in her lawsuit and had a history of conflicts with colleagues that contributed to the decision to let her go.

The case included salacious testimony about Pao’s affair with a male colleague that was intended to bolster her allegations of gender bias. Pao said the colleague pursued her relentlessly before the affair began, and that she broke it off when she learned he had lied about his wife leaving him.

Pao told jurors the colleague later retaliated by shutting her out of key e-mails and meetings, and Kleiner Perkins did nothing to stop him when she complained.

Testimony showed the colleague was later found to have harassed another female employee.

Pao’s attorneys also said she was excluded from an all-male dinner at the home of former vice president Al Gore; received a book of erotic poetry from a partner; was asked to take notes like a secretary at a meeting; and subjected to talk about pornography aboard a private plane.

Hermle, however, showed the jury e-mails and text messages that seemed to contradict Pao’s claims that the colleague hounded her into a relationship.

Jurors were asked to determine whether Kleiner Perkins discriminated against Pao because she is a woman; failed to take reasonable steps to prevent that discrimination; and retaliated against her after she complained about gender bias.


"Charges of sexism roil venture capital world; Unsuccessful suit spotlights lack of diversity" by Callum Borchers, Globe Staff  March 28, 2015

The rest of us have “Game of Thrones” and “House of Cards,” but for those in Boston’s venture capital world, this season’s must-see drama played out in a Silicon Valley courtroom and ended Friday night in dramatic fashion.

Ellen Pao, a Harvard Business School graduate, lost her gender discrimination suit against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the venture titan that backed Google and Amazon — and employed Pao as an aide and junior partner from 2005 to 2012.

As with any good script, there was an intriguing subplot to Pao’s case: The culture of the entire, testosterone-infused venture industry might as well have been on trial, too, as five weeks of salacious testimony about unwanted advances, erotic poetry, and boys-only meetings suggested an institutional inequality that may go far beyond one woman’s assertions.

Moments after a jury of six men and six women rendered its verdict late Friday, Maia Heymann, senior managing director of CommonAngels Ventures in Cambridge, sounded stunned as she absorbed the news over the phone with a reporter.

“Whatever the specifics of this case, sexism absolutely exists,” she said, collecting her thoughts. “Whether this case proved it or not, it’s absolutely real.” 

I'm beginning to resent division based on anything other than cla$$ being thrown at me by the propaganda pre$$.

Despite the outcome, Heymann maintained that the trial “got people talking and raised awareness.”

Globe didn't give it a hell of a lot of coverage.

The decision felt like a bigger letdown to Jules Pieri, an entrepreneur in residence at Harvard Business School, who said she does not know Pao, but believed the decision to take legal action must have been a difficult one.

“No one would invite this much public scrutiny of her personal life and career unless she was either totally certifiable, or totally certain that she was deeply wronged,” Pieri said. “I was hoping for a verdict that could serve as a wake-up call to the segments of our tech economy who haven’t realized this is the 21st century. I fear business as usual has been solidly reinforced.”

Pao was seeking $16 million in lost wages plus punitive damages.

Local venture capitalists interviewed during the final week of testimony and jury deliberations said the trial had sparked conversations about gender diversity on the Massachusetts venture capital scene, where in the last six years there were more deals and dollars than anywhere in the nation, other than California.

As if it were some sort of inquisition?


A recent Babson College study helped quantify the gender imbalance: 94 percent of investment partners at US venture firms are male. But some question whether there is a problem to correct.

“There is definitely a slice of venture firms in town that aren’t terribly concerned about changing because they think they’re doing just fine,” said C.A. Webb, executive director of the New England Venture Capital Association.

And the next head of the Chamber of Commerce in Bo$ton?

She argued venture needs more women because the firms form a relatively small, super-exclusive club that plays an outsize role in the state and national economies. Culled largely from elite business schools, venture capitalists spend their days raising investment funds that sometimes exceed $1 billion and scouring high-tech hotbeds like Boston and the valley for the next startup that can turn massive profits with a life-saving drug therapy — or perhaps a mobile app that will become a millennial obsession.

I wonder where they find all that money. Sort of explains they pension statements and college tuitions, doesn't it? All going for agenda-pushing purposes to the well-connected and if they pi$$ it all away, oh well.

Leaving women out of those early investment choices can limit female entrepreneurs’ access to early-stage funding. 

There are plenty of women and minorities in the 1%; they and their mouthpieces just don't want you looking there.


Others believe diversity won’t happen without deliberate measures. Sheryl Marshall, founder of Capital W, an upcoming conference about women in Boston venture capital, contended that firms must be far more proactive in recruiting women.

Candida Brush, who coauthored the Babson study and chairs the college’s entrepreneurship program, said many venture firms aren’t looking hard enough, or in the right places, for female talent. “I’ve heard the excuse that there aren’t enough women to choose from,” said Brush. “They’re out there.”

Part of the challenge is there just are not many venture jobs to go around — only 5,891 in the whole country in 2013, down 60 percent in a decade, according to the National Venture Capital Association. Few openings and the potential for great wealth make venture one of the most sought-after, yet difficult to crack, professions in business.

With so many qualified candidates clamoring for a handful of positions, connections are critical.

A central theme of the Pao trial was that the few women who do break in to venture capital walk a fine line between being seen as assertive and overbearing.... 

Oh, that old dodge.


The problem with that front-page piece is “it’s a caricature of what’s wrong with the industry.”

Like this:

"A blend of geek culture and sound, Nerd Rock shows find a home in Boston" by Basim Usmani for The Boston Globe, March 25 2015

The guy at the bar in a Darth Vader helmet was a giveaway that this was no ordinary club show.

The video game and comic book cultures have become so big, so pervasive that they now have their own music genre, and a touring circuit for fans who follow the more than 50 gaming and comics conventions held around the United States each year.

Boston is a hotbed of such music, and the show that Monday night Downstairs at the Middle East in Cambridge was the annual after-party for PAX East, one of the industry’s largest gaming conventions, held at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center....

Did you see Wu wasn't invited?


Would have ruined the party anyway.


Failed bias suit is fodder for Boston Women’s Venture Summit

You have a problem with that?


"Competitive gaming is ready for its close-up. The Electronic Sports League and live event broadcaster BY Experience revealed plans Tuesday to bring a series of live esports events to 1,500 to 2,000 movie theaters around the world. The ‘‘Esports in Cinema’’ series will launch in July with the debut of an esports documentary from filmmakers Christine O’Malley and Patrick Creadon, followed by live competitive gaming and a Q&A session in front of a studio audience. The event will be shown from the ESL studio in Burbank, Calif., on July 23 for North American and Latin American audiences. Over the past 10 years, esports has evolved from a niche genre of gaming to a lucrative sport capable of drawing tens of millions of spectators both online and in person to such arenas as Los Angeles’ Staples Center and Seoul’s World Cup Stadium. The ESL was founded in 1997 and is the largest esports league, with more than 5 million registered players. " 

Sorry I missed that.