Ellen Pao announced today she has dropped her lawsuit against her former employer, the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Pao's gender discrimination suit, which she lost in a jury trial in March, touched off debate on the underrepresentation of women in Silicon Valley; it also unveiled the inner workings of one of the Valley's most storied VC firms.
"I feel gratified that my actions have encouraged others to speak up about discrimination in venture capital and technology more broadly," Pao wrote in a statement obtained first by Recode. "I am encouraged that companies are taking more action to quantify and address the disparity of opportunities for women and minorities."
Pao will pay almost $276,000 in legal fees to Kleiner Perkins
Many people who’ve criticized the treatment of women in tech — and especially the treatment of women who speak out about discriminatory workplace practices — considered Pao’s March loss a blow. Pao remained vigilant, however, and told a crowd in May at Recode's Code Conference that the industry would improve its treatment of women in the workplace if more people told their stories.
Pao was considering an appeal and filed a notice in June indicating her intent, but appears not to have followed through due to extreme financial burden it would impose. Backlash against Pao on the internet eventually coalesced into a campaign to get her fired as the interim CEO of Reddit. Pao stepped down as chief executive of the social network in July amid disputes over the site's hosting of controversial forums.
Pao did not settle with Kleiner Perkins because she didn’t want to be prevented from speaking about the case, she said. "Settlement might have provided me with financial benefits, but only at the great cost of silence," Pao said. "I refuse to be silent on these important issues." That means she’s still on the hook for $276,000 in legal fees, though Kleiner previously said the firm would waive the fees if Pao dropped her appeal.
When reached for comment, a Kleiner spokeswoman said, "We are glad to put this trial behind us. There is no question diversity in the workplace is an important issue. KPCB remains committed to supporting women and minorities in venture capital and technology both inside our firm and within our industry."
Read Pao's full statement below:
I have decided to end my lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins.
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 resolve the lawsuit, I will pay Kleiner Perkins for its legal costs as awarded by the court, although I firmly believe people who bring employment discrimination claims in good faith should not be forced to pay their employer’s legal bills. I will also drop my appeal, since I cannot afford the risk of even more costs to fight against a firm with tremendous financial resources and massive legal and PR armies.
To be clear, Kleiner and I have not reached any agreement to settle this matter. Settlement might have provided me with financial benefits, but only at the great cost of silence. To quote their lawyer, "KP is not interested in a settlement without a non disparagement provision," meaning I would not be free to speak the truth about my experiences. I refuse to be silent on these important issues.
This battle has been painful for me personally and professionally, and also for my family. It is time to move on. I look forward to continuing the conversation about workplace equality and to building great companies in the technology industry.