SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A former partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers kept an even demeanor on Thursday as the venture firm’s lawyers finished a cross examination that has portrayed her decision to sue for gender discrimination as highly opportunistic.
Ellen Pao faced several questions about whether money was her motivation for suing in 2012, and whether she was a divisive figure at the firm. The trial has helped sparked a broad discussion about gender in Silicon Valley.
To win, Pao must seem capable, but not defensive, employment lawyers say. Kleiner’s lawyers have tried to show she lacked the qualifications to advance without questioning her so harshly that they lose the jury’s sympathy.
While Pao rarely smiled during the cross examination, she did not become combative and acknowledged several statements that cast her in an unflattering light. Kleiner attorney Lynne Hermle probed whether Pao had magnified her problems at the firm in one of the final questions.
“Did you say it was your belief that the only negative thing that happened to you at Kleiner, that did not occur because of retaliation, was being hit by a cab?” Hermle asked.
“I may have said that,” Pao said.
Into the third week of this case, Kleiner’s cross examination of Pao marks the first time that she has been on the defensive about her 7-year tenure at the firm, best known for backing Amazon.com Inc, Google Inc, and other well-known technology companies.
Earlier on Thursday in San Francisco Superior Court, Judge Harold Kahn rejected a request from Kleiner that it be allowed to introduce evidence about financial difficulties Pao and her husband suffered around the time she filed her lawsuit.
On Wednesday, Hermle pointed out that Pao had hired an employment lawyer and sought a 10-figure settlement from Kleiner before writing a memo to colleagues at the firm about problems women faced at the firm.
The case is Pao v. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers LLC, CGC-12-520719, in California Superior Court, in the County of San Francisco.
Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Christian Plumb