As TechCrunch was the first to report, Ellen Pao, an investment partner at Sand Hill Road venture capital stalwart Kleiner Perkins, has filed a lawsuit alleging that during her seven year career there she has been the victim of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and acts of retaliation for rebuffing unwated advances and reporting her alleged experiences.
In a statement sent today to TechCrunch, Kleiner Perkins said the suit is without merit and vowed to “vigorously defend” itself regarding the matter.
It’s all shocking for a lot of reasons, one of them being how it seems so contrary to Kleiner Perkins’ longtime reputation. Kleiner Perkins has had a sterling image for years, and it has actually become known for being especially female-friendly. The VC space is widely known for being a boys’ club, but Kleiner Perkins has actually been one firm that’s seen as bucking that trend.
KPCB has assembled a partner roster with a particularly healthy number of females in leadership positions — Aileen Lee, Juliet deBaubigny, Beth Seidenberg, and Mary Meeker are among its current senior investment team. In a recent roundup of female investors in the tech space by Whitney Hess, KPCB was found to have the highest ratio of female investors — 10 out of 44 — of any other VC she compared it to. Today, there are a total of 12 female partners at Kleiner Perkins, nine of whom are investing partners.
Overall, when it comes to women in the tech investing space, Kleiner Perkins has historically been perceived as one of the good guys. This news is still breaking in many ways, so it will be fascinating to see how it plays out.