A judge ruled that fired venture capitalist Ellen Pao can seek punitive damages in her closely watched sex discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, the elite vc outfit Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers. Pao is suing for $16 million in lost wages and future earnings. But Judge Harold Kahn concluded that there is "sufficient evidence from which a reasonable juror could conclude that Kleiner Perkins engaged in intentional gender discrimination, that Kleiner Perkins acted with malice, fraud or oppression." That could push the total to $160 million, according to reports.
The case is being closely watched because Silicon Valley is known for both its huge money deals and also for its male-dominated culture. CNN, utilizing data from U.S. Department of Labor, recently put together a good interactive look at the real story of diversity in Silicon Valley--and the numbers bear out the notion that it's a tough place for women to get ahead. If Ellen Pao wins her case--essentially a beta test for sex discrimination cases in Silicon Valley--it will be much harder to claim that the lopsided figures are mostly circumstantial (more male engineers, etc.), rather than the product of widespread institutional discrimination.
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