Sexual Discrimination Suit Brought Against Major VC – An Object Lesson

Kleiner Perkins Partner Ellen Pao Sues Firm for Gender Discrimination – Liz Gannes – News – AllThingsD.

Women at Kleiner Perkins By the Numbers.

It is by no means clear at this point whether the allegations brought by Ms. Pao against Kleiner Perkins and several of her partners in the firm are true, but this suit highlights a number of important points that should no be lost on other technology companies:

1) The IT economy, still being a VERY male dominated realm, is ripe for this kind suit. This is true for a number of reasons. First, being heavily demographically weighted towards males, there is a tendency for “Boys’ Club” atmospheres to develop within companies which, intentionally or otherwise can yield environments that, rightly or wrongly are perceived as discriminatory. In more extreme cases, such atmospheres can foster actual discriminatory behavior. Finally, it creates a “target rich environment” for lawsuits; and, where opportunity lies, lawsuits will certainly follow.

2) Companies of all stripes are well served by having robust personnel policies, including procedures addressing discrimination and fraternization.

3) Companies need to actually follow their personnel policies. If situations where a violation occurs or might occur arises, it should be both well documented and properly (and promptly) addressed. If there is a question as to how to do this, consult with experienced legal counsel!

4) All allegations of discrimination should be promptly documented, investigated, and dealt with in an appropriate and prompt manner. (If this seems redundant, so be it. It bears repeating!)

These lessons are only a few of the many that can be learned from suits such as this. Discrimination suits, whether meritorious or baseless, are expensive messy affairs. Risk management is a much less expensive investment that will pay countless dividends in the long run.

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One comment on “Sexual Discrimination Suit Brought Against Major VC – An Object Lesson

  1. This lawsuit has already drawn a number of interesting commentaries in the tech blogs. One of the most pointed shows up in GigaOm.com:

    http://gigaom.com/cleantech/the-vc-boys-club-is-a-crutch-in-a-competitive-ecosystem/

    As the GigaOm article clearly points out, the Boys’ Club mentality is not only a legal problem, it is a competitive problem as well.

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