Jury decides Ellen Pao was not victim of gender discrimination at Kleiner Perkins

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - A jury of six men and six women decided Friday that Ellen Pao was not the victim of gender discrimination or retaliation during her employment at the famed Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Pao's civil lawsuit seeking $16 million in damages drew worldwide attention and raised questions about gender equality and working conditions in the world of venture capital.

Following the verdict, Pao gave a brief statement at the California Superior Courthouse in San Francisco thanking her friends, family and supporters.

"I'm grateful to my legal team for getting me a day in court and to everyone around the world, male and female who've reached out to express support in so many different ways and to tell me that my story is their story too," Pao said, "If I've helped to level the playing field for women and minorities in venture capital then the battle was worth it."

The jury deliberated for two days and poured over evidence presented during the month-long trial.

Pao joined Kleiner, Perkins in 2005 as Chief of Staff for the firm's well-known partner John Doerr, who had been her mentor, but also testified that he'd cautioned Pao about her difficulty in working with others as she sought a promotion to senior partner.

In court, Pao's attorneys called the firm a "boys' club" and said Pao was fired in 2012 in retaliation for speaking out. Pao claimed she'd outperformed male colleagues, was asked to take notes like a secretary, and was treated unfairly after an affair with a married male colleague.

"This case should be about what Ms. Pao did for Kleiner Perkins," her attorney Alan Exelrod said.

Attorneys for Kleiner, Perkins said performance reviews showed Pao had a history of conflicts with co-workers that prevented her promotion, and pointed to other female employees who succeeded and did not have complaints.

"Her view of her skills and performance was far different than the views of the Kleiner Perkins partners," Kleiner Perkins defense attorney Lynne Hermle told jurors in closing statements.

After the verdict was read Friday, Herlme said, "It never occurred to me for a second that a careful and attentive jury like this would find either discrimination or retaliation."

Jurors had to decide whether Kleiner Perkins discriminated against Pao because she is a woman; failed to take reasonable steps to prevent that discrimination; and retaliated against her after she complained about gender bias by failing to promote her and then firing her.

The jury voted 9-3 against Pao's retaliation charge, after one juror switched his vote at the last minute in court, forcing the jury to reconvene for another two hours.

The jury voted 10-2 against Pao's gender discrimination claims.

Steve Sammut, a juror from San Francisco voted with the majority and said Pao seemed intelligent and capable, but the testimony about her performance swayed his decision.

"Certainly the performance evaluations through the years were a key piece," Sammut said, "We felt she did a great job with her 5 years as Chief of Staff, but felt that there were definitely some differences between her reviews."

Marshalette Ramsey, a juror who voted in favor of Pao on all four counts said she believes Kleiner Perkins did have a double standard.

"It just seemed that the men were able, with those same character flaws that Ellen was cited with, were able to propel and continue on with their careers at Kleiner Perkins," Ramsey said.

On the way out of the courtroom, KTVU asked Pao if she would appeal. She replied that hasn't made a decision.