Juror in gender lawsuit sympathized with Pao, sided with Kleiner

Sun Mar 29, 2015 11:40pm EDT
 
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By Sarah McBride

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - To some Silicon Valley watchers, the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers gender discrimination case became a referendum on the challenging state of women in technology. But for the lone woman in technology on the jury, an at times unfriendly workplace did not amount to gender discrimination at the powerful venture capital firm. 

The jury on Friday cleared Kleiner on all charges of gender bias and retaliation, leaving the technology community scouring the jurors for the thinking behind their decision and for clues on whether other gender discrimination cases can succeed.

For Erin Malone, 51, an alternate juror who sat through four weeks of testimony but did not end up deliberating on the verdict, it came down to the credibility of Ellen Pao, 45, the plaintiff who had worked as a partner at Kleiner until 2012.

Pao's friendly demeanor crumbled somewhat under cross examination and her performance fell short, Malone said in an interview, echoing the comments of two other jurors interviewed by Reuters who were part of deliberations.

Deliberating jurors included six men and six women, with two men and Malone standing by as alternates. An alternate juror sits through the trial and may be called on as a replacement if an active juror drops out, for example due to illness.

Sympathetic to Pao in many areas, Malone, who designs technology allowing users to interact with apps and websites, said she herself felt she reached a "glass ceiling" when she worked at Yahoo Inc (YHOO.O: Quote) years ago. (Malone left Yahoo in 2008. Since then, the company has had two women chief executives including the present CEO, Marissa Mayer.)

Ultimately, what Malone saw as an environment that was sometimes difficult for women was not enough to sway her on the merits of Pao's specific case against Kleiner. 

"The environment definitely is biased against women in technology, and venture capital is even worse," said Malone, but "I didn't find her as credible as she should have been."    Continued...

 
Erin Malone, an alternate juror in Pao vs Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers case and a partner at user-experience design firm Tangible UX, poses in her San Francisco neighborhood of Bernal Heights, March 28, 2015. REUTERS/Sarah McBride