Ellen Pao, Reset

The message that many girls get when they are growing up is if they work really hard, work on what they do best (aka what they are innately good at), follow the rules and you will be rewarded.  Boys are told to double down on everything because they will figure it out and should just continue to strive at anything they want.

Over the years I have met with insanely smart women who are overachievers who follow the rules and believe that their smarts will be rewarded and become frustrated and baffled when it doesn’t work that way yet keep trying.

I finished Ellen Pao’s book Reset this week.  The book is honest, authentic and I give her huge applauds for putting everything out there without portraying herself as a victim.  She has become a role model for all women not only by letting all walls down in her book, suing Kleiner Perkins and sharing this story but also for not taking the buy out to stay quiet and giving us the insight into why she, like many women, just kept expecting that she would be rewarded because she deserved to be.   If only the world worked that way.  Ellen believed that Kleiner would do the right thing even until the very end when she shared her email exchanges with their lawyers.

There are so many bad characters in the book.  Of course, there are always three sides to a story but I have been witnessing this type of behavior in the business world for so long that in some ways, none of this is surprising.  What should be acknowledged is that the lawyers (female and men) who read all the documents, the women who worked inside the firm and have been treated abysmally as well and absolutely knew what truly happened, took the money and turned a blind eye for fear of destroying their own careers.  Wouldn’t it have been refreshing for once to see every person stand up to this type of behavior and say something so these people in power would no longer be able to abuse their power.

We have seen many men in power fall over the past year because they held the keys to some castle.  It is high time we all stood up, like Ellen, and create our own castles where people are treated with respect in dignified environments where nobody is debased for who they are, where they came from or what they stand for.

Change never happens from inside, it always happens from outside.  I believe and hope that the next generation will be different.  More than anything I hope that we will see many other bad players fall and fall hard over the next years to come but that can only happen if nobody stands silent.   We must all be courageous and take a stand against bad behavior and that includes calling out the ones who pretend to be one thing such as supportive of this issue but in reality are the worst.

Comments (Archived):

  1. Sarah

    So glad that you keep returning to this theme – I find something novel in myself every time. Recently, at my book club a lovely woman was telling a story about her 10 yr old daughter receiving critical advice about how to achieve success in her life/career/hobby. The single piece of advice from a panel of men to a group of girls was to “be nice.”I reacted in a strong and not very articulate manner as that “be nice” message is the exact opposite to what I tell m daughter. I later clarified with this text in an email.”The “nice” theme has been a conversation in our house over the years. In my experience “nice” is the often used to undermine a female who is either voicing concerns or in negotiations. For me, it is like saying “take a back seat, bring the snacks and let others make the decisions about your life”. Being polite is an absolute as is being kind. Empathy is well worth cultivating and vital to our humanity. Being professional is essential and a skill set to be developed. I would use those words with my son and daughter equally – at least I hope I do. However, I can not imagine a scenario where a group of boys would be advised that they distinguish themselves in a competitive field by being “nice”.Years ago, I was listening in on a similar conversation between professionals and a group of 12 yr old eager boys who were asking questions about how to make it in the big leagues. The message to the boys was “to remain focussed, train hard, be passionate and learn the business behind the scenes”. They also told the boys that even if they are not selected for a team, then they can take all the learned skills and put themselves in a position to make the decisions either in the sport or in another profession. I remember the moment (not just for the positive reaction from the audience) but because I realized that this was not a message I had ever heard delivered to a group of girls.”I obviously have a strong opinion about this … as does my daughter.

    1. Gotham Gal

      When you are in the room with children and are paying attention to what they are being taught…the differences might be subtle but they are there

  2. Laura Yecies

    Just heard Kara Swisher interview her – great listen, book is up next on my Kindle. And yes we must all stand up – only way things will change.

  3. Jeremy Robinson

    Really love your persistence in continuing write about this important subject in your blog. I do despair a bit. As I mentioned before in this space, I grew up in a single parent family headed by my Mom, who was the first female Creative Director of an Ad Agency [Helena Rubinstein- internal to Helena’s company] about the ongoing misogyny in the Ad World. More recently I couldn’t watch “Mad Men”- too many awful reminders of creepy misogynistic men. I hoped that the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings would finally cause people across our nation to wake up. No such luck. It does seem the the only eventual political solution is going to be to elect a majority of self-aware women locally and national to set laws and priorities right for all of our kids and grand kids now and in the future. We do need sophisticated powerful white male partners to help make these changes happen. Misogyny runs very deep in our culture. I’m not sure why. But it sure as hell is a huge problem and it’s negative affects are everywhere like some kind of awful virus that just won’t go away.

    1. Gotham Gal

      You absolutely summed it up. It runs ridiculously deep and why the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings did not change things….who knows.

  4. JLM

    . This is not going to change until three things happen:1. Male dominated firms start having pictures with women partners in them. Until this happens, it is all talk.2. Men – real men – have to call out the slobs who do these things. Some woman’s brother needs to knock the crap out of someone who pulls such a stunt on their sister. It needs to get that granular.3. We need to define manliness for the clueless. Men do not extort people for gratification. Men need to talk up their gender and define who we are and supposed to be.Today I tackled this head on and defined what it should mean to be a man in the Age of Harvey Weinstein.http://themusingsofthebigre…It is not going to change with words. It requires action.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Gotham Gal

      In this case, I agree with you completely.

  5. JLM

    .In a great irony, the defendant’s attorney, a woman, won that case for Kleiner.She conducted a public lynching of the plaintiff which put Ellen Pao’s likeability on trial rather than the conduct of the VC firm.The question before the jury was supposed to be did the VC firm engage in discriminatory conduct. It devolved into whether anybody liked Ms Pao.The plaintiff got hopelessly outlawyered. The Judge allowed things into evidence which were preposterous. The identity, history of Pao’s husband had nothing to do with the conduct of the VC firm.The issue was simple – did the VC firm do certain things? It was not even questioned whether such actions were discriminatory.The Judge approved jury instructions which were prejudicial to a fair verdict. When you read the final Complaint and the jury instructions, it is almost impossible to believe they are related.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  6. Heather Wetzler

    In May of this year I was invited to an event in SF at a private residence in Nob Hill(a female VC) – the event was for June 26th and was planned 6-weeks in advance. It was going to be me (I have an EdTech company, a career exploration and readiness linking students and associations and I am based in LA). a few other female tech founders, female VCs and 34 female engineering Duke students who were interning in the SF area. Duke’s engineering program rents houses and places students in internships in and around SF. It was going to be a rah-rah let’s inspire the new leaders of tomorrow and learn from those who are teaching us everyday event – – but the Jason Caldbek Binary Capital story broke the weekend before so it turned into something very different. Some Duke students became visibly upset about the conversation – but one thing that came out of it was a female VC offered to act as a point person for a private Facebook page set-up among some VCs and it would be a safe place to report and discuss different abuses for either female founders when fundraising or for the female tech engineers when interviewing or going about their careers. This and some other diversity and inclusion events I have been attending makes me feel hopeful – but it is so disturbing that sexual harassment is still so rampant. I was born in 1972 and in the summers of high school I took the train from Stamford to NYC to work for my uncle -the business world was brutal for women in the 80s – all the women I know always kept quiet about men behaving badly – it was the only way to get ahead. I am grateful for women like Ellen who are brave enough to come forward – it is so hard. I thought this article was great too: https://www.huffingtonpost….

    1. Gotham Gal

      Extremely grateful to see women come out. The 80s were brutal for sure.