The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

Ellen Pao case not a victory for women in tech


Reddit CEO Ellen Pao’s lawsuit against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins ended decisively in March. On four counts of gender discrimination, the jury found in favor of the firm each time. Pao’s claims were found not to be credible by a jury, and the evidence in fact suggests that she has been waiting in the wings for years trying to build a case for discrimination that simply didn’t exist.

But one quick Google search might make a person think Ellen Pao had struck some major victory for feminist equality. “What Happens When Women Lead Companies: Ellen Pao Takes on Pay Disparity” in the Huffington Post. “Thank you Ellen Pao for teaching more people about sexism in the workplace” in The Guardian. She’s being hailed by the mainstream media as a champion for women in tech, paving the way for more scrutiny of discriminatory hiring practices. But Ellen Pao’s crusade has nothing to do with equality: that’s just the smokescreen around her transparent, self-serving lie.

Ellen Pao didn’t lose her job because she was a woman, she lost her job because she wasn’t good at it. She was receiving poor performance reviews from the senior partners at the firm as early as 2010 and was described as “difficult to work with.” She also admits to having an affair with a married co-worker. She was let go in October 2012 as just one person in a wave of firm-wide downsizing, and got to leave with a cushy severance package of $33,333 a month for six months, a bonus and health benefits. A thorough examination of the evidence in court revealed that in fact, the loss of her job had nothing to do with discrimination.

So why does the narrative in the mainstream media surrounding Pao and her case reflect these facts and the actual judicial outcome of her case so poorly? Because this case isn’t what’s “started the conversation” about gender discrimination in Silicon Valley. It’s just the most recent and flagrant attempt to invent discrimination where it doesn’t exist on behalf the social justice warriors whose roots lie in third-wave feminism.

Discriminatory hiring just doesn’t make sense for a firm to participate in, even if the firm was gravely sexist. A business who doesn’t hire, retain and promote people who can increase their profits will suffer, and businesses that don’t discriminate will eat up those skills and succeed. Economically, it makes no sense.

But that doesn’t matter when the narrative you’re trying to spin is that the fatcats in Silicon Valley have arbitrarily decided to block women from high corporate office even if it means losing money. Anything and everything becomes an example of discrimination. Even if a court finds there to be no discrimination, it’s just the justice system’s patriarchy in action: women are being held back in the legal system as well as the private sector. Let’s pay no mind to the fact that Pao wanted to sue Kleiner Perkins for $144 million, the same amount her husband Buddy Fletcher owes in a fraud case he lost.

It’s true that there are fewer women in tech than men, but that’s not the result of discrimination, it’s the result of choice. It’s just a fact that fewer women choose to go into tech than men, just as it’s true that fewer men choose to become sociologists. Neither of these outcomes are the result of active discrimination, they’re facts that arise naturally from the many different preferences men and women have.

Feminists and gender critics need to be careful who they support, because too many commentators have been blindly supporting Pao thanks to the lip service she paid the public about campaigning for gender equality in the Silicon Valley workplace. Her actions couldn’t communicate a more cynical view of the genders if she tried. Acting as Reddit’s interim CEO, Pao announced on April 8 that she would be banning salary negotiations from the company’s hiring process because “Men negotiate harder than women… we aren’t going to reward people who are better negotiators with more compensation.” Not only does she assume women are incapable of negotiation, she’s determined that the ability to negotiate is unimportant in the business world.

This is why Ellen Pao was fired. She is bad at her job, and bad at making decisions. Her lost discrimination suit has already sparked two similar suits at Facebook and Twitter, meaning that firms might be more afraid to hire a woman thanks to fear of gender rights lawsuits. Before uncritically filing a case like this away as a win for the forces of progressive good, check the facts first. Ellen Pao lost her case in a court of law, and that’s exactly what should have happened.

View Comments (1)
More to Discover

Comments (1)

All The Greyhound Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • J

    JSApr 13, 2015 at 12:37 am

    Thanks for writing the truth about Ellen Pao.

    Although there is a need to put light on this issue but Ellen Pao is the very wrong poster child and shows to men that women aren’t reasonable when it comes to sexual discrimination.

Activate Search
Ellen Pao case not a victory for women in tech