Culture

3 things Ellen Pao says she would do differently at her trial

In her upcoming memoir, "Reset," the former VC and Reddit CEO shares mistakes made during her landmark sexual harassment trial, but says there's hope for Silicon Valley.

In a rare admission, Ellen Pao wishes she would've spoken up more for herself.

In an excerpt of her tell-all memoir, "Reset," appearing on thecut.com, a women's lifestyle site, the venture capitalist writes that during her high-profile gender discrimination trial against Silicon Valley giant Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in 2015 she should've been more vocal inside and outside of the courtroom.

One example was during a cross-examination when she was asked, "You've never done anything for women, have you?"

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An excerpt from Ellen Pao's upcoming memoir, "Reset," revisits her groundbreaking discrimination trial that shook Silicon Valley.

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Pao said lawyers told her not to respond to comments like that because they could have brought on more criticism as well as suggested to jurors that she was "difficult and aggressive," traits she said Kleiner was trying to portray in court. 

"I ended up coming across as distant, even a bit robotic, as I tried to keep my answers noncombative," she said in the book due out Sept. 19. "But it hurt to leave that one unchallenged. It was patently false."

While Pao lost the trial that made international headlines, she has become an icon for the battle against sexism in Silicon Valley. Her case still sparks discussions and debate about gender and racial disparities across the tech industry. The debate has also led the tech industry's largest companies, such as Apple, Facebook and Google, to vow changes.

Pao herself is well aware of the impact her trial has had on the industry and how her name has become synonymous with it.

"Some reporters even came up with a name for the phenomenon of women or minorities in tech suing or speaking up," she said. "They call it the 'Pao effect.'"

In her book, Pao said she drove investments in six women founders while at Kleiner, and after she was fired, she personally invested in 10 companies, half of which had women CEOs. She wishes she'd highlighted those investments.

"But I didn't say any of that (during the trial)," she said. "I just sat there."

Pao didn't immediately respond to requests for comment Monday about the memoir. 

Kleiner Perkins said in a statement Monday it "believes in the need for greater diversity and inclusion," in the tech workforce, adding that a San Francisco jury rejected all of Pao's claims during the five-week trial.

In the book, Pao also writes that she wishes she had been more media-savvy during the trial. For example, she says she should have talked to the press and "prepared a few pages of talking points every day," a strategy Kleiner did frequently.

"Kleiner had tremendous resources that I couldn't match, and it made a difference," she wrote.

She also claimed Kleiner's public relations firm, the Brunswick Group, sent "an army of internet trolls" to attack her online, further hurting her case. In response, Brunswick said Monday: "We never have and never would encourage or enlist anyone to 'troll' an individual or organization." 

Since the trial, Pao left her job as CEO of Reddit and has since become the chief diversity officer for the Kapor Center for Social Impact in Oakland, California. She's also among a group of female tech leaders spearheading a nonprofit, Project Include, to help diversify the industry.  

"Over the past year, despite the ongoing public exposure of the ways both the president and tech companies like Uber discourage diversity and inclusion, we've seen results that give us hope," she said. 

First published Aug. 21, 1:49 p.m. PT
Updated at 3:25 p.m.: adds comments from Kleiner Perkins and the Brunswick Group in response to Pao's accusations.

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