A sex discrimination trial against one of Silicon Valley's most prestigious venture capital firms is providing a rare peek into the elite investment companies vying to fund the next Google and Amazon.
Their partnership rosters are stacked with some of the nation's most accomplished graduates -- multiple-degree holders from schools such as Harvard and Stanford universities who are competing aggressively to back the next big technology company. But they are also places where women are grossly underrepresented.
Ellen Pao's lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers goes further, describing the firm as an old-boys club where women allegedly were excluded from parties at former Vice President Al Gore's house, asked to take notes at a meeting like secretaries and subjected to harassment and boorish behavior by their male colleagues such as a conversation about porn stars and a trip to the Playboy Mansion aboard a private jet.
The case has put a spotlight on the gender inequities in the technology sector at a time when it is booming and minting new millionaires, but generating resentment from people who feel left out and victimized by its success, which they blame for higher rents and gentrification. The trial has also brought some of the nation's most accomplished venture capitalists into the courtroom, where they have faced tough questions about sexual harassment and the behavior of men in the workplace.
Pao, who has an MBA and law degree from Harvard, has mostly sat quietly and declined media questions during breaks in the proceedings. She could begin testifying [next].
But the jury has heard hours of testimony from her former colleagues, including one of her mentors at the firm, billionaire investor John Doerr, who was placed in the awkward position of defending his company while acknowledging that the dearth of females in the venture capital industry is "pathetic."