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Ellen Pao's First Interview: How to Educate Men About Sexism in the Workplace

Ellen Pao's First Interview: How to Educate Men About Sexism in the Workplace

By Danica Lo

This week, the Wall Street Journal scored the first sit-down interview with Reddit CEO Ellen Pao following a failed lawsuit against her former employer, Silicon Valley VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Pao earned her BA in Electrical Engineering from Princeton, a law degree from Harvard, and an MBA from Harvard, joined Kleiner Perkins in 2005, filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the company in May 2012 and was fired that October. Over the past three years, her legal battle has been closely watched—it's been an important conversation piece in the broader discussion on sexism endemic to Silicon Valley.

On how the trial helped build a strong women's community: There were a lot of positive moments when it felt surreal. Women were kind of taking me aside and telling me their story. I found it very emotional, and I felt a very strong connection to them. And they were strangers off the street or in an elevator, or on a message on LinkedIn. Our shared experiences created a very tight bond. There were people who shared stories that they hadn’t told other people, that they bottled up for many years. It was very inspiring to hear people share their stories and to feel this bond.

On how to combat subtle sexism in the workplace: I think the fact that a lot of this is subtle, that people have different views on where the line is, makes it a very worthwhile discussion. Until you draw that line at your company, people are going to give it a wide boundary. Then you end up with a lot of problems, because your expectations aren’t the same, or you’re not sure if it’s really a problem. I think we have moved through a lot of the really blatant issues that are clear-cut and now we’re getting to harder issues. When you look at the overall experience of women in the workplace, they are not succeeding, and that seems pretty clear-cut to me. So how do we fix that problem?

On how to educate men about sexism: I do think men need to be part of the conversation. And I think it has to be a conversation where men can learn from it, and part of that is by being part of it and engaging in it. You see men who will ask their wives, or they’ll ask their sisters or they’ll ask their co-workers who they know well. I think it starts out with those relationships where you feel comfortable, and it moves out from there as you become more aware about these issues.

Interested in reading more on the Ellen Pao case? Recode has been following the legal battle since day one.

 

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