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Ellen Pao's Next Venture Takes Aim at Silicon Valley's Old Boys' Club

Ellen Pao's Next Venture Takes Aim at Silicon Valley's Old Boys' Club

By Maya Kosoff

In 2015, Ellen Pao took her former employer, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, to court and sued the venture-capital firm for allegations of gender-based discrimination. Though she ultimately lost, Pao's case prompted discussions about diversity in tech and Silicon Valley. Months later, Pao stepped down from her job as the interim C.E.O. of Reddit after factions of the online community revolted against her leadership. "Ultimately, the board asked me to demonstrate higher user growth in the next six months than I believe I can deliver while maintaining Reddit’s core principles," Pao said at the time.

Nearly a year later, Pao is back in the spotlight, and she’s embarking on a new venture: Project Include, a nonprofit that will track the diversity numbers of different tech companies and report on the data over time, with the goal of making companies hold up their diversity commitments, according to The New York Times. Venture-capital firms will also be asked to participate, by checking in on their portfolio companies. "The standard mantra for every company on diversity statistics is, ‘We’re not doing well, but we’re working on it,’” Pao told The Times. "People don't learn anything from that. Can you tell us what are you actually doing?"

Pao isn't alone in her mission: she's flanked by a group of women who have already spoken out about the tech industry’s lack of diversity. Former Google engineer Erica Baker made a spreadsheet with some co-workers to expose pay inequalities at Google as an experiment in radical transparency. Pinterest engineer Tracy Chou, another founding member, has been outspoken about the issue of diversity in tech in recent years. In total, the group includes eight founding members who will work on Project Include in addition to their day jobs at companies like Slack and Stripe.

In recent years, more individuals have spoken out about the paucity of female and non-white workers in the tech industry. Still, every so often something happens that serves as a reminder of how much work is yet to be done. Sequoia Capital's Michael Moritz came under fire last year when he said that his firm was "not prepared . . . to lower its standards" when it came to hiring diverse candidates. PayPal decided to hold an all-male panel to talk about gender equality in the workplace earlier this year. There is work to be done — no doubt the industry could use a group like Pao's.

More From Vanity Fair:
• PayPal Promotes “Gender Equality” Without Women
• Silicon Valley Firm Can’t Find Any Women
• Can Google Solve Silicon Valley’s Gender Problem?
• Here’s Why So Few Women Make It Inside Corporate Boardrooms

Photo Credit: Bloomberg/Getty Images