Ex-Reddit CEO Ellen Pao Exposes Details of Sexism in Silicon Valley in Shocking Essay

An excerpt from Ellen Pao’s forthcoming memoir, titled “Reset”, details some of the problems she endured — sexism, discrimination and sexual harassment — during her time at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB).

In the essay “This is How Sexism Works in Silicon Valley” posted in The New York Magazine’s The Cut on Monday, Pao sheds some light regarding the scandal she faced in 2012 when she filed a lawsuit against KPCB.

Pao went on to recount one of the experiences she had during her stay with the company, including the private flight she had from San Francisco to New York.

She described how an unnamed tech CEO told stories of how he met American porn star Jenna Jameson, and took pictures with her at the Playboy Mansion. The CEO then continued to ask Pao if she knew who the porn star was and proceeded to describe one of Jameson’s series.

“Once we were airborne, the CEO, who’d brought along a few bottles of wine, started bragging about meeting Jenna Jameson, talking about her career as the world’s greatest porn star and how he had taken a photo with her at the Playboy Mansion. He asked if I knew who she was and then proceeded to describe her pay-per-view series (Jenna’s American Sex Star), on which women competed for porn-movie contracts by performing sex acts before a live audience.

“’Nope,’ I said. ‘Not a show I’m familiar with.'”

The toxic scene was just one of the many Pao had to deal with trying to lean in to the boy’s club.

“Seven months later, I would sue Kleiner Perkins for sexual harassment and discrimination in a widely publicized case in which I was often cast as the villain — incompetent, greedy, aggressive, and cold. My husband and I were both dragged through the mud, our privacy destroyed. For a long time I didn’t challenge those stories, because I wasn’t ready to talk about my experience in detail. Now I am.” the former Reddit employee wrote.

In another part of her essay, Pao further detailed how the circumstances at Kleiner Perkins deteriorated under the unwanted harassment of a fellow partner as well a period of maternity leave.

“Life at Kleiner got progressively worse. At one point I found out the partners had taken some CEOs and founders on an all-male ski trip. They spent $50,000 on the private jet to and from Vail. I was later told that they didn’t invite any women because women probably wouldn’t want to share a condo with men.”

Pao’s lawsuit — and her effort to raise awareness about sexism — has triggered a trend among women working in Silicon Valley. According to SFGate, several female employees took a stand against corporations and filed lawsuits against them for sexual harassment and discrimination. A couple worth noting are the cases against Facebook in 2015 and Tinder in 2014.

Pao’s memoir “Reset” is scheduled to hit bookshelves on Sept. 19, 2017.

Image via Wikimedia Commons / Christopher Michel (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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