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My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change

By Ellen Pao
12-minute read
Audio available
Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change by Ellen Pao

In Reset (2017), Ellen Pao recounts the story of her legal battle against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers for discrimination. Her high-profile case caused waves in Silicon Valley, and the bravery and honesty she displayed inspired many women all over the world to share their own experiences, furthering the fight for equality.

  • Women who have experienced sexual harassment at work
  • Managers who want to ensure their workplace is free from discrimination
  • Anyone interested in powerful women bringing about change in the world

Ellen Pao currently works as an investment banker at Kapor Capital and is a co-founder of the non-profit Project Include. Her first and only book, Reset (2017), garnered her worldwide recognition and was shortlisted for the 2017 Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year award.

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My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change

By Ellen Pao
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change by Ellen Pao
Synopsis

In Reset (2017), Ellen Pao recounts the story of her legal battle against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers for discrimination. Her high-profile case caused waves in Silicon Valley, and the bravery and honesty she displayed inspired many women all over the world to share their own experiences, furthering the fight for equality.

Key idea 1 of 7

Deeply ingrained sexual discrimination makes it hard for women to succeed in the workplace.

Ellen Pao grew up believing that a good education would inevitably lead to success, and so when she graduated from Harvard Law School in 1994, she saw endless career opportunities laid out in front of her. When she began working at the well-known New York City law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore as a corporate lawyer, however, she quickly realized things weren’t going to go quite how she’d expected.

One of the things Pao noticed was that sexual discrimination had become so deeply rooted in the workplace that it often happened without anyone noticing it, sometimes not even the person on the receiving end.

A coworker who was black and female was constantly mistaken for an administrative assistant or a paralegal, despite being dressed in suits donned only by attorneys. Furthermore, even though as a lawyer she had the authority to use company cars, Pao’s coworker faced difficulties in doing so.

At the time, Pao’s coworker didn’t think too much about it, and thus never reported what happened. Ultimately, however, she was so distressed by these experiences that she ended up leaving the profession entirely.

The case of Pao’s coworker serves as a reminder of how it’s nearly impossible to ascend the corporate ladder if you’re not one of “the boys,” despite your hardest efforts.

Pao relates a time when the head of her department invited 12 male coworkers to dinner, following it up with a visit to a strip club. Pao pointed out that going to the strip club allowed the male coworkers an opportunity to get to know their boss on a more personal level, which is a massive advantage.

These men-only events happened all the time. Pao managed to get a ticket to a hockey game once, but she was only allowed to come if she didn’t sit beside the senior partner.

Such behaviors excluded women from important conversations and opportunities, and as a result, they had to double their efforts just to keep pace with their male counterparts.

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