Ellen Pao trial heating up

What's everyone's take on this situation?

I just started reading about it today and it sounds like Pao is a serial complainer/whiner in the workplace. In typical female fashion, she does not see anything wrong with her behavior or her decisions. No accountability whatsoever. Just blames everyone else except herself.

Complaining about not being invited to a dinner with Al Gore? "And I lived in the St. Regis, where the dinner was held!"

Very interesting piece on Pao and her husband:
http://fortune.com/2012/10/25/a-tale-of-money-sex-...

Cross-examination this afternoon:
http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2015/03/10/elle...

Comments (23)

Mar 11, 2015

I don't know the details of the Pao or Fletcher cases, so don't read the following comment as a judgment on those particular cases.

A not uncommon situation in restructurings/distressed situations is that an investor will end up holding a position in the capital stack which is not first ranking security, but the investor's consent is required for the restructuring.

In that situation, the tactic I'd usually recommend is that the investor play a spoiler role ie refuse to consent, threaten to disrupt the restructuring process and then extract as much value for agreeing to play along, holding out for maximum $ right to the end.

Why? Because that's a rational approach to take when playing along and agreeing with a restructure as a mezzanine or junior tranche can get you little to no cents on the dollar.

From a game theory perspective, you might not take this approach if you were concerned that the reputation effects would mean you miss profitable opportunities in the future, because people don't want to do business with you. However, there are a number of hedge and special situations funds who take this approach (often buying mezzanine debt in secondary trades), they often use this strategy and it's worked well for them.

This strategy is an analogy to where someone like Pao finds herself. You can be hired for your potential, fail to live up to that potential, then be left with the following choices:

- Continue a middling career for a while, then be shown the door; or

- If you've got some characteristic you can hang a discrimination claim on (eg race, gender, sexual preference, religion), play the spoiler role and threaten to sue

The second option can have a bigger pay off, even on a probability weighted, risk adjusted approach.

Your reputation may suffer and you may never work in the big leagues again. But, over the span of a lifetime, that may be something you'd be willing to do in your 30s or 40s if your career was turning out middling anyway. And a big pay out could make it worthwhile.

So, even if you realise that it's largely your fault your career has failed, it can be perfectly rational to sue your current/former employer.

It's the sort of rational, profit-seeking ruthlessness that Wall Street often admires in many profitable hedge/special situations funds who run fund strategies on this spoiler role basis.

It's consistent with how modern financial theory evaluates situations. Going to court probably has the best Sharpe ratio.

    • 1
Mar 11, 2015

Follow up question, if this strategy has worked well for these special situation funds, then why haven't more people taken this approach?

Is it because most people don't want to risk their reputation? The market size for these situations is too small?

It was an interesting analysis, but I'm still very skeptical on this analogy.

I'm too drunk to taste this chicken -Late great Col. Sanders

Mar 11, 2015

I'm not sure. Reasons could include:

- Litigation is not pleasant and there's things most people would rather do with their lives

- No smoking gun in the available evidence means probability of success is too low

- Plaintiff is not willing to bear the scrutiny that litigation can bring

- As you say, reputation

Mar 11, 2015

I think this trial highlights the differences between how men and women think about professional advancement. I think women often treat (what they perceive to be) professional slights as being discriminatory in nature, while men mostly do not feel this way.

An example would be when Ray Lane asked the women junior partners to take notes at a meeting, and they both refused to do so (citing the request as condescending). Lane reported being surprised that they would take the suggestion that way.

As a male I'm obviously biased, but I feel like it's the junior partners' job to support the senior partner, even if that means taking notes.

Also Pao claimed that a lot of the work she did for Doerr as his chief of staff was demeaning. Also a meritless argument, as the responsibilities she was given were consistent with the job description.

She also cited that she had recommended investing early-on in Twitter, and she was shot down by the senior partnership. Obviously that was a mistake, as Kleiner invested later in Twitter at a $4bn valuation. However, every large VC firm has missed great companies, and Pao's singular suggestion to invest in Twitter neither proves she's good at her job nor proves that Kleiner discriminated against her.

I get the feeling that Pao is an ambitious, career- and status-obsessed individual (like many on this board) who feels slighted by the 'patriarchy' because her self-evaluation differs from her peers' evaluation. She reminds me of someone who would claim she didn't get into Harvard solely because she's Asian.

Maybe that's true. But the more likely reason is that you just weren't good enough.

Mar 11, 2015

What keeps going through my head while reading about Pao is that if she is such a talented person, why didn't she make a decision to use her talent somewhere else? If she is so talented (and underpaid), why didn't she go to a place where she could "be compensated fairly" and not perform demeaning work anymore?

I'm too drunk to taste this chicken -Late great Col. Sanders

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Mar 11, 2015

Don't think this can really be held against her - she was offered a partnership position with the investment team at Google Ventures back when it was starting, but Doerr convinced her to stay and offered her a position on the investment team of Kleiner's digital growth fund, which is a great opportunity.

In addition, she wanted to be a VC, and there is only a handful of places that could be considered preferable to Kleiner as a firm. Pao had a pretty sweet gig - she was Doerr's protege (incredible opportunity) and had a junior partnership with one of the most prestigious VCs in the world.

Arguably she could've made more money on the operating side (like in her current position as interim CEO of reddit) but at the time it seems like she wanted some investing experience.

Also, finding another firm as a woman could be difficult, if the allegations of sexual discrimination are true. Discrimination might not just be a Kleiner issue - it could be an industry-wide, systemic issue that makes jumping ship very difficult. Perhaps firms all share the same mindset, and Pao will find herself in the same position if she hopped over to Andreessen Horowitz or Sequoia.

Depends on whether or not you believe her testimony. I may hold an unpopular opinion, but I really do think there's a problem with accepting women in tech, and perhaps these biases are subconscious, difficult to prove and even harder to change. But they are most likely very real, and could have a real impact on the way women are considered for promotions or new opportunities (for example, two MDs in competition for partnership at big investment bank, one woman and one man. Who would you choose if every other relevant factor were identical?)

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Mar 11, 2015

"As is with typical with women"

You could get yourself flayed alive over a comment like that if made publicly!

That said I will say that the current affirmative action push tends to push that mentality? Not hired? Fired? Your co-workers don't like you and commit "microagressions" against you?

Yep....blame it on your race/gender/sexual orientation, not the fact that you're lazy/treat people like shit/incompetent/etc.

Mar 11, 2015

Alternatively, sexual harassment poses the potential for sexual harassment lawsuits.

Mar 11, 2015

Quite a bit of vulgarity in that post. Just because you censor it doesn't mean it's not blatantly obvious, hahahah.

That whole situation is sad. I'll wait for judgment until further details come out, but it's terrible.

Mar 11, 2015

Business Insider... I'm not even going to click on that link. Ugh.

Mar 11, 2015

Just read the article. Bizarre.

Basically, it seems Ms Pao had a consensual sexual relationship (even though she's maried to a bisexual black dude, who btw sued his former employer for $1.3M) and is now alleging that she is being blocked from deals becuase she broke it off. That doesnt sound like sexual harassment, it sounds like stupidity on the part of all parties. These people need to get their shit together.

This could have been handled with more tact and less exposure. What a sketchy cast of characters.

Mar 11, 2015

We do not give damn about your opinions and views and would like to inform you that with your attitude, you will never be able to run a business.

Sincerely,

Women on the Street

Mar 11, 2015
Disincentivy:

We do not give damn about your opinions and views and would like to inform you that with your attitude, you will never be able to run a business.

Sincerely,

Women on the Street

I apologize if I offended you.
This was never intended to generalize and criticize all women on the street.
Just a few taking the advantage of their gender or with thoughts of doing so.

Sincerely,

A male person

Mar 11, 2015
Disincentivy:

We do not give damn about your opinions and views and would like to inform you that with your attitude, you will never be able to run a business.

Sincerely,

Women on the Street

I apologize if I offended you.
This was never intended to generalize and criticize all women on the street.
Just a few taking the advantage of their gender or with thoughts of doing so.

Sincerely,

A male person

Mar 11, 2015
Disincentivy:

We do not give damn about your opinions and views and would like to inform you that with your attitude, you will never be able to run a business.

Sincerely,

Women on the Street

I apologize if I offended you.
This was never intended to generalize and criticize all women on the street.
Just a few taking the advantage of their gender or with thoughts of doing so.

Sincerely,

A male person

Mar 11, 2015
Disincentivy:

We do not give damn about your opinions and views and would like to inform you that with your attitude, you will never be able to run a business.

Sincerely,

Women on the Street

I apologize if I offended you.
This was never intended to generalize and criticize all women on the street.
Just a few taking the advantage of their gender or with thoughts of doing so.

Sincerely,

A male person

Mar 11, 2015

Expected an attractive woman...was disappointed.

Mar 11, 2015
chimpanzee:

Expected an attractive woman...was disappointed.

LOL

Mar 11, 2015

What the hell just happened?
How do I delete my comments?

Mar 11, 2015
Do what I gotta do:

What the hell just happened?
How do I delete my comments?

You can't.

Mar 11, 2015
Comment
Mar 11, 2015