TECH

Ellen Pao Drops Lawsuit, But Refuses To Stay Silent On Women In Tech

"Settlement might have provided me with financial benefits, but only at the great cost of silence."

After drawing a huge amount of attention to the problems women face in the worlds of tech and venture capital, Ellen Pao, who recently served as interim CEO of Reddit, said Thursday that she was dropping her lawsuit against the elite VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, where she worked from 2005 to 2012.

Pao said Thursday that she simply could not afford to continue the fight. But instead of settling her case with Kleiner and letting the deep-pocketed firm pick up the tab on all remaining court costs, Pao paid $276,000 in court costs herself. A settlement would have required her to stay mum on the issue of gender discrimination at Kleiner, she told the tech site Re/code.

"Settlement might have provided me with financial benefits, but only at the great cost of silence," Pao wrote in a statement provided to The Wall Street Journal and Re/code. "I feel gratified that my actions have encouraged others to speak up about discrimination in venture capital and technology more broadly. I am encouraged that companies are taking more action to quantify and address the disparity of opportunities for women and minorities." 

"To quote their lawyer, '[Kleiner] is not interested in a settlement without a non disparagement provision,' meaning I would not be free to speak the truth about my experiences," Pao's statement continued. "I refuse to be silent on these important issues."

In March, a San Francisco jury rejected all of Pao's claims against Kleiner, which fired her in 2012. Pao had claimed that the firm discriminated against her because she was a woman, blocking her chances at promotion and getting rid of her after she filed a discrimination lawsuit. She appealed the ruling in June.

The jury trial captivated the male-dominated world of venture capital and the tech industry more broadly, and has pushed firms to do more about the lack of women in those sectors. In 2014, only 6 percent of the partners in venture capital firms were women, according to a study from Babson College.

The publicity surrounding the Pao trial, along with a recent surge in attention to the issue of women in tech, had a noticeable effect on some firms' efforts to improve gender parity, according to many observers.

"Things in tech have been in the process of changing," Joelle Emerson, the founder of a consulting firm that works on diversity issues, told The Huffington Post earlier this year. "This only made the discussion more immediate."

Pao this year also resigned her position as interim CEO of Reddit, where she had come under fire for several controversial decisions.

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