6 min read ⌚
My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change
If you’re living in the States, you’ve probably heard many things about the Pao v. Kleiner Perkins 2015 case.
Here’s your chance to hear it from the horse’s mouth:
“Reset” is the work of none other but Ellen Pao herself.
Who Should Read “Reset”? And Why?
If you are a woman and you feel that you have experienced some form of sexual harassment at work – read this book right away.
It has inspired many to come out with their stories; it should inspire you as well.
And the future of whole humanity depends on that fact.
We’re not exaggerating.
About Ellen Pao
Ellen Pao is an American investor and activist, the co-founder of the diversity consulting organization Project Interlude.
After her gender discrimination suit against Kleiner Perkins made her a celebrity and earned her a reputation as a champion for women rights, she has focused her efforts on making the problems women face at work more widely known.
“Reset,” a book chronicling her battle against Kleiner Perkins, is part of this campaign.
“Reset PDF Summary”
Well, that’s exactly what Ellen Pao, the middle child of three daughters born to Chinese immigrants in New Jersey, believed as well.
After all, she had the fortune of being born in the Land of the Free, the one country in the world in which vertical mobility is firmly rooted in the reality of people’s day-to-day activities, the nation which prides itself in being the leader of the democratic world.
So, when Ellen Pao graduated from Harvard Law School in 1994, she believed that her sought-after future is there for the taking.
Nothing could stop her.
However, her outlook changed the minute she got a job as a corporate lawyer at the renowned New York City law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore.
The first thing Ellen Pao noticed was not a good thing: sexual discrimination.
So deeply embedded in the workplace that even those suffering from it weren’t able to notice it.
For example, one of her colleagues – an African-American female – was constantly mistaken for a paralegal or an administrative assistant, despite the fact that she was dressed like neither.
Even worse: the culture of the firm was so obviously a male-dominated one that one time, the head of the department organized a visit to a strip club!
Naturally, the only people who were allowed to come were her male coworkers – resulting in her and her female colleagues missing out on the opportunity to get to know their boss on a more personal level.
Now, is that fair?
If you think not – then, brace yourself: it gets even worse from here.
After finishing her two-year MBA at Harvard Business School, Pao started working as chief of staff at the well-known venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
Some more discrimination.
For example, on a business trip to New York, Pao – the only woman there – had to endure her colleagues talking about the hotness of a potential future member of the company’s board (Marissa Mayer), because, obviously, that’s an important quality to have if you want to succeed.
Then, the conversation moved even more doggedly in that direction, as the men started bragging about meeting the famous porn star Jenna Jameson, finally culminating in a night out for which Pao didn’t receive an invitation.
Once again, she was left out.
Her only fault?
Being a woman.
But that’s not the end.
The “boys club” philosophy of Kleiner resulted in the company even ignoring some of her advises, like, for example, her pitch for Twitter in the early days of the company when she even arranged a meeting with the company’s then-CEO, Jack Dorsey.
However, after a male junior partner had made the same pitch four years later, Kleiner agreed to invest, hailing the male partner as a genius and completely disregarding Pao’s offer, made when Twitter’s value was lower by 400 percent!
Things escalated when Ellen Pao started seeing her coworker Ajit Nazre.
She believed Nazre had separated from his wife when she began dating him, but once she found out he was lying, Pao terminated their relationship.
This did not go well with Nazre, who started intentionally misleading Pao, excluding her not only from important meetings but also from as important email threads.
Pao complained of Nazre’s misconduct to her managing partner, Ray Lane, but Lane wasn’t interested in listening to her since he was much closer to Nazre due to the “boys club” philosophy which allowed for Ray and Ajit to bond over the many male-only events and dinners they had attended together.
When Nazre was promoted, Pao’s circumstances worsened even further, since he now started writing negative reviews about her!
Ellen filed numerous complaints, but this only resulted in Kleiner’s HR consultant telling her to stop complaining.
The situation became so unbearable that Pao was thinking of leaving the company – even though she liked the job.
However, while confiding to Trae Vassallo, a fellow junior partner – also a female – Pao learned that she wasn’t the only one with the same problem.
Namely, Ajir Nazre had sexually harassed Trae Vassallo as well, tricking her into going with him on a fake business trip during which he tried to force himself upon her.
Now, the women got a serious case against Nazre, and this led to him finally leaving the firm.
The battle was won.
The war had just begun.
Its supposed culmination: Pao v. Kleiner Perkins, a landmark trial which became a cause célèbre after it got the attention of the media.
The final verdict arrived on March 27, 2015.
And according to it, Ellen Pao lost the case.
However, as it turned out, it was merely a slight hitch on the road to equality.
Because Pao’s case inspired many women around the world with similar experience to start sharing their stories.
The #IWasRapedToo hashtag, the Chia Hong v. Facebook and Tina Huang v Twitter trials, Katie Moussouris suit against Microsoft – these are all part of Ellen Pao’s legacy.
In fact, reporters started calling the sudden surge of women complaining against gender discrimination, quite appropriately, the Pao Effect.
Key Lessons from “Reset”
1. Gender Discrimination Is a Real Thing
2. Ellen Pao’s Role in Gamergate
3. Project Interlude
Gender Discrimination Is a Real Thing
And, as Ellen Pao found out working for few exceptionally powerful and influential American firms, this is merely the beginning.
Because women also have many fewer opportunities to change the disparity for the very simple reason that companies tend a “boys club” culture, which includes all-male events, strip clubs, and female-objectifying discussions.
In a nutshell – if you want to succeed as a woman – you better become a man.
Ellen Pao’s Role in Gamergate
In 2014, journalist Eron Gjoni published “thezoepost” in which he detailed his relationship with Zoë Quinn, an American video game developer and programmer.
The content of the post resulted in Zoe being the constant victim of doxing, in addition to receiving numerous rape and death threats.
One of the platforms on which this was happening was Reddit, of which Ellen Pao was a CEO at the moment.
Appalled by the incident, In 2015, Ellen Pao “banned revenge porn and unsolicited nudes” on Reddit, resulting in many similar websites (including Facebook) embracing the zero-tolerance policy.
After losing the case against Kleiner, Ellen Pao felt that it would be wrong to let all the support she had during the time go to waste.
So she gathered other women in executive positions, and, together with Erica Joy Baker (former Google engineer), Tracy Chou (former Pinterest engineer) and Brianna Wu (diversity advocate), she co-founded Project Interlude.
Its goal: giving CEOs useful advice on diversifying.
Its status: an award-winning non-profit organization.
Fully in line with the motto of “Reset,” this wonderful Toni Morrison’s quote:
If you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.
So, go Pao!
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Our Critical Review
Shortlisted for the 2017 “Financial Times” and “McKinsey” Business Book of the Year Award, “Reset” is the best – even though at times, a bit too subjective – account you’ll find out there of the Pao v. Kleiner Perkins case which effectively blew open a conversation about the status of women.
Relatable (yes, even if you are a man) and brave, “Reset” serves as both a lesson in awareness and a rallying cry for equality.