Silicon Valley gender trial enters final stages

Tue Mar 24, 2015 11:13pm EDT
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By Sarah McBride and Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Dollar signs rather than discrimination drove a former partner at venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers to file her gender discrimination suit, a lawyer for the firm told jurors Tuesday in the high-profile trial.

"The complaints of Ellen Pao were made for only one purpose,” said Lynne Hermle, a lawyer for Kleiner Perkins, in her closing arguments in San Francisco Superior Court. “A huge payout for Team Ellen."

But Pao’s lawyer, Alan Exelrod, told a different version of events in the case, which has become a cultural touchstone in Silicon Valley and beyond.

"They ran Kleiner Perkins like a boys' club," Exelrod said of firm leaders, whom he blamed for creating an environment that worked against women.

Originally filed in 2012, the lawsuit has unfolded as the technology industry tries to come to grips with its low numbers of women, especially at senior levels. Increasingly, technology companies are debating how much their culture, rather than the paucity of women trained in science and technology, is to blame.

Jurors are being asked to decide whether Kleiner discriminated against Pao and failed to prevent discrimination against her based on gender, and whether it retaliated against her by not promoting her and subsequently firing her.

The case has laid bare the personnel matters of the firm that backed Google (GOOG.O: Quote) and Amazon (AMZN.O: Quote), painting it as a quarrelsome pressure cooker where a former male partner used business trips as opportunities to make advances to female colleagues.

Evidence that will factor into jurors' decision ranges from whether women were maliciously excluded from events such as an all-male dinner hosted by Vice President Al Gore, a Kleiner partner, to the criteria used in promotions.   Continued...

Ellen Pao walks to San Francisco Superior Court in San Francisco, California March 3, 2015.  REUTERS/Robert Galbraith