She was a junior partner at one of Silicon Valley's most powerful venture capital firms. But was Ellen Pao a greedy underperformer? Or was she a victim of a sexist corporate culture?
That's the choice confronting a jury in a trial that has riveted an industry struggling to attract and keep talented women in the workforce.
Ellen Pao vs. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers wrapped up Wednesday after weeks of testimony exposed salacious details of workplace trysts, all-male outings, porn talk and alleged routine harassment. Jurors must decide whether the firm discriminated against Pao, 45, because she is a woman, and then fired her in retaliation after she sued in 2012.
"Even before there's a verdict in this case, and regardless of what the verdict is, people in Silicon Valley are now talking," said Kelly Dermody, managing partner at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, who chairs the San Francisco law firm's employment practice group.
"People are second-guessing and questioning whether there are exclusionary practices [and] everyday subtle acts of exclusion that collectively limit women's ability to succeed or even to compete for the best opportunities. And that's an incredibly positive impact."
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