Yesterday, Techcrunch reported that Kleiner Perkins Partner Ellen Pao sued her firm for gender and sexual discrimination. A friend immediately told me “Well that’s career suicide” and I can’t say I didn’t think the same thing. While few can comment on whether the allegations are true, this news does highlight some of the reactions the media and tech community have had to gender issues in the past.
Over the past few months, many have been engrossed in the Valley gender gossip on “brogrammer culture”, sexist comments at tech panels and the general lack of women in tech. Many of these topics are easy to ignore as they’re off-handed comments or just the result of fewer female grads in computer science - and there’s not much we can do to change it.
When I first heard of Ellen Pao’s lawsuit, I thought of Noirin Shirley’s alleged sexual assault at a tech conference. It was first reported on Techcrunch by Alexia Tsotsis and then subsequently taken down because “TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington has a ‘no personal drama’ policy”. Gawker later pointed out that Arrington wrote about his personal issues with Jason Calacanis just a week before. It’s easy to silence issues like this as being about “drama” or “unproven allegations” - but we wouldn’t have much to read on Techcrunch if they waited for confirmation on other rumors, would we?
Ellen Pao’s lawsuit allows our community to discuss these “women in tech” issues as real problems that face our gender and our industry. This is no longer about about dumb comments made at a tech conference about bikini shots or “bro” attitudes - it’s about what’s stopping women from reaching their true potential.
How many women do you know about who have allegedly faced sexual harassment hoping that it will end once they’re promoted to Managing Partner or Director of Engineering? If you asked me Monday, I would have said not a single one. Yesterday, that changed.
For more, head to Women 2.0.
The views above are my own personal views. It does not reflect my employer’s views.