Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a famed venture capitalist for tech firms, has been in the spotlight due to an allegation that it disfavours promoting women within the company.
Former Kleiner junior partner Ellen Pao has filed a lawsuit stating that the firm denied her promotion (and eventually fired her) after she made a harassment complaint against a male colleague.
Kleiner has only promoted a woman once in its more than 40 years of operation, Pao’s lawyer Alan Exelrod told the court in the suit's opening argument last Tuesday.
In addition, Exelrod stated in court that Pao's stature in Kleiner had deteriorated after ending an affair with colleague Ajit Nazre, who has also allegedly intimidated a number of women employees at the firm, including Kleiner advisor Trae Vassallo,
Vassallo is scheduled to testify to validate these statements.
In response, Kleiner attorney Lynne Hermle refuted allegations that the firm steers away from recruiting and promoting female executives, also emphasising that Kleiner has highly-invested in firms founded by women.
Pao, now-Reddit interim chief executive, simply "did not come close" to qualifying as an investing partner, Hermle said.
The firm said that it could use Pao's compensation package at Reddit to prove that she is merely trying to “twist facts, circumstances and events” to push for the gender bias accusation.
Pao is seeking as much as $16 million from the firm, a Kleiner lawyer said.