US & Canada

Ellen Pao loses sexism case against Silicon Valley firm

Media captionThe case was complex with numerous twists and turns, as Jamie Robertson reports

A California jury has found that a venture capital firm did not discriminate against a female partner in a closely watched case in Silicon Valley.

Ellen Pao claimed she missed out on promotions at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers because of her gender.

Ms Pao, now an executive with the website Reddit, says she was dismissed after complaining.

The firm has said its decisions were based on her performance.

The case has drawn attention to a lack of gender diversity in the technology industry - particularly among its top executives.

Venture capital firms are a chief source of funding for many start-up companies in Silicon Valley. Kleiner Perkins - as it is commonly known - has invested in companies including Snapchat, Spotify, Uber, Twitter, and Google.

In addition to punitive damages, Ms Pao was also seeking $16m (£10.7m) in compensation for lost wages.

During closing arguments, jurors heard conflicted stories of Ms Pao's tenure at the firm.

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Image caption John Doerr (right), one of the firm's venture capitalists, on stage with Apple's Steve Jobs in 2008

Her attorneys portrayed her as a successful junior partner who was discriminated against because the firm judged men and women differently.

Ms Pao's lawyer, Alan Exelrod, said two of her male colleagues had been promoted, despite the fact that one was called confrontational and the other was accused of having "sharp elbows" - an apparent reference to his attitude towards other workers.

The firm's legal team said Ms Pao was a failed investor and sued to get a big payout as she was being pushed out.

They said she was a difficult person to work with and had a history of conflicts with colleagues, all of which contributed to the decision to dismiss her.

A study given as evidence during the trial said that women are largely underrepresented in top roles in the venture capital industry.

Californian investor and entrepreneur Eric Ries told the BBC the wider issue of gender bias in Silicon Valley is well documented but can be unintentional.

"Silicon Valley aspires to be a meritocracy so we have a culture that values outsiders and the perspectives they bring, and there is this idea that good ideas can come from anywhere... that's our aspiration but the reality is in many ways we fall short," he said.

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