Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer for the Kapor Center Ellen Pao at the Berkeley Forum

Conversations April 16, 2019

Ellen Pao appeared at the Berkeley Forum on September 28, 2017. Ms. Pao’s address focused on her personal experiences working in Silicon Valley, along with her hopes for diversity and inclusion in tech and beyond. The event was moderated by Shaina Zuber.

Shaina Zuber: We’re so pleased that you’ve made your return here with us tonight. In your book you chronicle your life from growing up the child of immigrants, to your time at university, studying everything from engineering to law and business, to your time in Silicon Valley working with a number of startups to eventually your suit against Kleiner Perkins. Throughout this journey, at what point did you come to believe that the system you are entering had been built in a way that limited your ability to succeed?

Ellen Pao: For a long time, I thought it was either me or an individual. So, if there was an all-male steak dinner at the law firm that I was at, I thought, “Well, that guy who organized it, what a jerk,” and I’ll just go and organize my own dinner with my friends and we would have our dinner. But you know I didn’t realize until much, much later and I was out of the field of law that actually, those dinners with partners, are different than dinners with peers, right. They’re networking opportunities, they’re opportunities to get visibility. They’re opportunities to be seen so that when the good opportunities come up, you’re considered, you’re in the mix, you’re known. So, it wasn’t as a lawyer, it was much later. It wasn’t until I was at Kleiner. So, throughout my career, there’d be little things that I would notice but brush off or I would just work harder, but I would continue to succeed. So, I was lucky enough to be able to continue to move up in every job that I had and it wasn’t until I was at Kleiner Perkins when I hit a wall. But really, the thing that had me understand how systemic it was, was seeing all the other women hit the same wall. So, there was one promotion time where none of the women got promoted and almost all the men got promoted. We had…the women had better education, more work experience before joining Kleiner, more years at Kleiner on average, overall. One of the women had actually done this detailed analysis investment by investment, partner by partner, to show that the woman’s investments were actually doing much better than the men’s investments. And yet, despite the education, the experience on different levels and the better investments, none of the women got promoted, most of the men got promoted and that was a clear signal to me that something was wrong.

Shaina Zuber: Did you feel like the other people at the firm were cognizant of this disparity and ignored it or simply didn’t even notice?

Ellen Pao: I think there were people who noticed it and were like, “Just work through.” There was one person who advised me, like, “Forget about the dinners but this board seat that they took you off of, you should really be fighting for that.” So, pick your battles basically. I think the men were not cognizant. I think there were certain small things that I think some of them were cognizant of but it wasn’t big enough for them to do anything and it wasn’t something that they saw as systemic.

Shaina Zuber: While you were working at Kleiner Perkins in venture capital you were essentially seated at the intersection of the tech world and high finance, both of which are industries which have been criticized for the treatment of female employees there. How did you feel these two industries were different and similar in how women were treated and potential discrimination they faced?

Ellen Pao: It’s hard to say because I worked in a tech field at a different time. Like I worked in tech from 1998 to 2005 and that was when it was still the nerds who were working. It was very much like people who were engineers, they were interested in building product or technologies and it was much geekier. In 2008, it changed quite a bit because Wall Street all of a sudden, became toxic or the toxicity was more public and people didn’t want to go to Wall Street anymore. It was a time where the banks were starting to fail and people coming out of business school like Haas, decided I’d rather go to tech where I can see that these guys from Google are now billionaires and they built their companies in 7 or 8 years and became billionaires with public offerings. Mark Zuckerberg was starting to come up and there was this idea that the way to make money is to go to Silicon Valley and no longer to go to Wall Street and that changed the culture. So, I think the culture got much more toxic after 2008. So, it’s different than when I was there. If I look at venture, I think the big difference between venture and all of tech is that it’s such a small group of people, it’s such a concentration of power. There are the relationships, there are the people who can make companies and they’re king makers. They pick a person and they invest in them and they put money into them and it doesn’t matter what they do, they are able to get repeated chances. You look at the guy from Zenefits. He was fired for fraud and building software to get around insurance regulations and yet he started a new company and raised several million dollars from the same investors who had just barred him a year or so ago. So, you get multiple chances if you’re in that in-group and there are just a few people who can make or break your company and that drives into the companies that they invest in and sets the tone for the rest of the industry. So, that concentration of power and the influence is incredibly strong.

Shaina Zuber: As you mentioned, venture does have a large impact on what companies succeed and which ones fail. In 2016, companies run by men received 16 times as much funding from venture capital firms as those run by women. What do you think drives this disparity and capital allocation and what do you believe should be done to address it?

Ellen Pao: So, they call it pattern matching and I think in that speech that I was here for, like 7 or 10 years ago, I think there was probably talk about what makes for a successful company. One of the things that that my firm used to talk about is white male nerds who dropped out of school. So, they looked at the pattern of the guys from Yahoo, the guys from Google, Mark Zuckerberg and the success factors that they decided were most important, were white, male, nerd and that ended up being the people that they invested in. As time went on, those ended up being the people that were successful because they were the only people who got investment. So, you end up with this self-fulfilling prophecy which all of a sudden, looks like the numbers that you shared. Like more and more investment goes into this small group of people and others are shut out of the whole process.

Shaina Zuber: Do you think there are any trends towards improvement in this or has it been pretty static since you’ve been in Silicon Valley?

Ellen Pao: I think the latest numbers have gotten worse. So, it’s been pretty static. I’m encouraged though, by the fact that now there are some small funds that are run by women, that are run by underrepresented people of color. I think there is more awareness of the problem and I think there are people who are recognizing that. There are women and people of color who are a huge opportunity to invest in because others are not looking at those sectors. So, there are all these awesome entrepreneurs that are getting shut down or rejected by the mainstream investors that have great ideas, that have great teams, that have great opportunities and the ability to invest in them without having to fight off 10 other venture capitalists is an incredible opportunity.

Shaina Zuber: You mentioned in your book that while you were at Kleiner Perkins working in this sort of environment, you really stressed this issue of maternity leave and how taking maternity leave could have detrimental effects on people’s careers, and people could feel forced into working when they were on maternity leave. How do you think this issue should be addressed either through policy solutions or a change in culture or both?

Ellen Pao: I think it’s a mix. So, when I was at a law firm in 1994, 1995, there was one woman who was there who had been there for a long time. She started in law before women could actually go to law school. So, women would have to apprentice. So, she apprenticed with a lawyer in order to be eligible to pass the bar and work as a lawyer. She said to me, like, “If society values people raising their kids, they need to make it possible for people to work and raise their kids at the same time. So, if it values women being involved in raising kids, then women should be given ways to be able to raise their kids while still working.” If you look at companies now, they’re looking at parental leave instead of maternity leave and I think that helps a lot. If you make it so that it’s something that both genders or all the genders experience equally, then people can be more empathetic. “Right, look, I want to take this time off but I’m feeling all this pressure not to because people don’t think that paternity leave really makes sense, maybe I’ll feel more empathetic to the person who’s trying to take leave as well.” I think it’s a mental shift in trying to understand, like do we value people raising their kids, do we value people working, do we want them back in the workforce, do we want to include everyone in these opportunities and make sure that we have everybody participating to the full extent of their capabilities?

Shaina Zuber: You mentioned in your book that you did try to implement something of a cultural shift during your time as interim CEO at Reddit, and one of the policies you implemented was to ask potential employees questions to discern their views on diversity. How would you respond to those that charge that this practice could stifle dissent or violate the ideals of free speech?

Ellen Pao: Nobody actually said that to me. I think they were… Like at that point, people knew I had sued and I think they were wiser than to say something that would be that. I think it was before, it was pre-Google manifesto, people weren’t talking about those views as openly. But I did have one person who said that he believed in diversity and he was willing to lower the bar to bring in women and people of color. I was like, “Oh, that’s really interesting, let me just make sure I understand what you’re saying because I’m going to ding you and I don’t want it to be based on, like my mishearing” But there is this idea that people just are not equal and it’s very strong in certain people and they can be very earnest and they can really have the best of intentions but they have this fundamental belief that is really difficult to shake. Like that guy, his team was mostly white and mostly Asian. I was like, “Well, why do you think that is? And you can get to people’s beliefs indirectly without them stating it explicitly, but it’s hard to have a conversation once you get to that spot, right. Like where do you go?

Shaina Zuber: Another policy instituted at Reddit was to remove salary negotiations as studies have shown that women tend to fare worse when salaries and bonuses are negotiated. What impact do you think this had on the business and do you think it should be replicated at other firms?

Ellen Pao: I think the press was a little bit unclear about what it actually was and that was partly my not communicating it clearly. I think what we did was we gave everybody the highest negotiated salary we’d be willing to give. So, we had bands and we would put everybody at the top of their bands based on their experience and their skills and the job that we were hiring for. It worked out really well because I think there’s this tension between the candidate and the employer where they want to feel like they’ve negotiated well but they also don’t want to burn the relationship. And as the employer, you want to hire them but you’d also want to pay fairly across your whole team and we could see at Reddit, there were some managers who were more generous than other managers. You could say they were actually worse negotiators, depending on your perspective and then there were some employees who were really strong negotiators and they were just way out of band. So, you look at that and it’s completely unfair and for us to really stick to the bands, we wanted to make sure that we’re giving people the amount that we thought they were worth which would be at the high part of the band.

Shaina Zuber: And this was implemented across all levels of the company?

Ellen Pao: Yes, I looked at every offer and I had a recruiter, Phil Haig, who…we put every offer together and we would go through the bands and we’d say, like, “How many years of experience do they have in this particular skill set?” So, it was a little bit time-consuming. We would have had to do it differently at scale, we were pretty small then but you felt better. Like when you gave the offer, you felt better and there were candidates that would say, “God, you know, this is a really generous offer. This is more than I would have asked for. I really feel good about it because I don’t feel like I have to negotiate for myself. I’m not comfortable negotiating for myself and I’m super excited to take the job.” And we would cut out like 1 or 2 weeks of awkwardness where you’d give out the offer and you wouldn’t hear anything and then you’re like, “Maybe we should have given more or what are they thinking?” And they would call back and they would want to negotiate but they already felt like it was a good offer, so they weren’t sure how much to negotiate.And there’s that whole awkward set of interactions where it’s a little bit of tension because you want more and the company wants to give you less, maybe, so you’re at odds, but this created this much more positive experience and also, we could close people faster. So, we could get them in the door and for us, we were growing really quickly and that ended up being a huge benefit that we hadn’t anticipated.

Shaina Zuber: Have you seen this being replicated in other firms across the industry?

Ellen Pao: There are other companies that are doing it. So, we were…I don’t think we were the first, although we didn’t do it to copy other companies. It started with Yishan, my predecessor but he did it more informally and then I made it formal. I made sure that everybody followed it.

Shaina Zuber: On this issue of differences position and salary within an organization, you mentioned in your book that you felt you were really only able to file suit because you were in a financial position to do so. How do you feel the experience of women and executive roles who maybe are in this financial position, differs from those of women in potential lower levels who couldn’t take this sort of action you did?

Ellen Pao: I think it’s not really level that it depends on. I think it depends on, like what are your other financial obligations, where you, you know, you could have family money, you could have a spouse that works, you could have saved a lot of money? So, I think it’s more, what is your specific situation, if you don’t have kids or if you don’t have a family to support elsewhere, if you don’t have other obligations, it’s different. Also, it depends on your appetite for risk. Everybody has a different appetite for how they think about taking chances and it really is not something where I’d say, I think all women who have the financial resources to do this should do this because it’s hard. It depends on your mindset, it depends on whether you’re willing to take that risk. It depends on how thick your skin is because it can be very ugly and it depends on how willing you are to be in that spotlight.

Shaina Zuber: In addition to these varying levels of financial stability, there’s also a great amount of diversity in terms of experience, in terms of race. Do you believe the experience of women…or how do you believe the experience of Asian American women in the tech industry, in the business world in general, differs from that of white women or of other people of color?

Ellen Pao: I think you can look at studies. There’s a group Ascend, that is a nonprofit that is coming out with a new report, I think, in a few weeks and they’ve looked at race and gender to see how people get promoted and how people get hired. They’ve shown very specific differences. When you’re basically not a white male, the further away you are, the harder it is for you to get to the top and the harder it is for you to succeed and it differs by category. But I think it’s also hard to focus so much attention on different groups. I think it’s important to understand how race plays a factor into it but it’s often used to pit one group against another. So, it’s like, “Well, Asians shouldn’t be part of this conversation because at least they get hired or Latinx people shouldn’t be part of this conversation because they can assimilate better, right” So, there’s a lot of competition that ends up like, “Well, my situation is worse, so I should get more benefit or your situation is less bad, so you should make room for my group.” I think that’s really hard, when the focus should be on, like, there’s a systemic problem where people are not being included and we need to change the whole system so that everybody gets included fairly. So, it’s not, “I’m going to have one slot for a woman and then once I put that woman in, nobody else gets to be on that panel or in that executive suite. Or I’m going to put a slot for diversity and once I fill that with, whether it’s an Asian person or a black person or a Latinex person or somebody with a different sexual orientation, then I’m done.” That is kind of attitude when you start parsing through very closely, when people start talking about kind of trying to compare different groups. I think it should very much be like, who are the best people for these opportunities, who should we be listening to, who should we be getting perspectives from and that should be everybody. We can’t… You know, I see a lot of it, where like groups are starting to… Where this fragmentation is super toxic and really, we need to be working together to make sure that everybody gets a fair chance to succeed.

Shaina Zuber: For the sake of time, this is going to be my last question before we move on to audience questions. In your book, you discussed the need for diversity in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation. What do you believe people within the tech industry or outside the tech industry, who might not be part of these underrepresented groups should do to bolster this goal?

Ellen Pao: I think everybody has a voice that can make a difference and I’ve seen throughout my experience… When I first filed suit, it was very lonely and it was very hard. People at my office were scared to talk to me. I was a social piranha. There was one who talked to me for a few months but we had to meet outside the office and she would leave 5 minutes before I left and we would meet way far away from the office because she did not want to be seen with me. So, that was a very lonely, hard time. People would move away when I sat down at a table. Like it was very kind of high schoolish but it was hard because we had been there for 7 years and these were the people that I had worked and spent so much time with. But people would email me and they would send me supportive messages and a few people said things publicly and then it grew over time and you saw other people speak about their own experiences. And it wasn’t just women or women of color, it was also men saying, “This happened to my mom or this happened to my coworker and she told me because she had read about your experiences. I believe you, even though the press is completely attacking you and saying that you’re not telling the truth, I believe you,” and that can be very powerful. So, you don’t have to go out and sue, you don’t have to go out and take huge steps but just speaking up for other people. When your classmate or your coworker is always asked to get the coffee or get the cookies or take the notes, you can speak up and say, “Actually, it seems like she’s done that several times. Why don’t I do it or why don’t we have it go through everybody and the whole team does it from time to time?” So that it’s not that person’s additional burden to speak up and fix the mistake. Everybody uses their voice and creates the change that needs to happen.

Audience Member: Hi, there, thanks for being here. So, this is a question around diversity efforts and the liability that they create in a company. I know that there is some information that is on the Project Include website about that but I’m interested in kind of talking a little bit about…there’s a kind of an explosion right now of diversity and inclusion.And I know that a lot of companies bring in consultants to kind of explore it internally and then provide recommendations. Can you talk a little bit about what you see as maybe some good and maybe some harm that that can cause in terms of how companies handle it, I think?

Ellen Pao: Yes, I think our values at Project Include our inclusion, comprehensiveness and accountability. So, the first one, when we talk about inclusion, we mean inclusion of everyone. We see a lot of companies who are focused on women and at the end, that means white women usually. And it means that they’re opening up the boys’ club and adding a few people but the general culture is that some people are in the in-group and some people are not in the in-group and just because you add a few more people to the in-group, doesn’t mean you’re an inclusive company. So, thinking about it from the perspective of, how do I give everyone a fair chance to succeed? The second point, comprehensiveness, is tied to making sure that it’s everything in your company. So, it’s not just, let me hire a few people and throw them into the company and hope they swim. It’s really, like your processes for hiring, your processes for promoting, for paying people, for giving performance reviews, for giving opportunities, giving visibility, for giving sponsorship and mentorship, should be fair and it should be inclusive. And then the last piece is, you need to be accountable and you need to measure what’s going on in your company to make sure that you are seeing progress and that you’re taking steps that are actually working. One of the things that we’ve seen that there’s a lot of research on, is that when you have the consultant come in and do the 90-minute unconscious bias training, it can actually be hurtful to attitudes and hurtful to diversity and inclusion in your company. So, really thinking about, like what are all the steps and what are the ongoing things you’re going to do to make the company actually inclusive is really important.

Audience Member: Hi, there, my name is Olivia I’m a computer science student here. So, I often find myself surrounded by all men because, you know, project groups, classes, extracurriculars and more and more, the conversation of diversity does come up. But a lot of times, I’m the only diverse candidate or a female candidate etc. in those conversations. So, I guess I wanted to know like what your advice would be, because oftentimes those conversations can get a little bit tense or it’s kind of awkward. So, like what advice would you have to create meaningful and productive conversation?

Ellen Pao: It’s a hard one because, like, it’s great to educate people but it’s exhausting, right. So, in every conversation, people turn to you because you’re the only person who doesn’t look like them and you’re expected to do the work of educating all of them. I think a big part of it is trying to get people to educate themselves. So, you can hopefully, tell them, like, “There’s so much information out there on the Internet, in medium, on Twitter, in all different magazines,” to push them to actually do some homework. Like, “Hey, that doesn’t seem like a very educated opinion, you should actually do some research, right. Go Google diversity and intersectionality and learn something.” But it’s hard because you’ll feel like you want to but I think you have to think about, like what are you willing to do, does it make sense for you to do? And also, are there some people that you just can’t change their minds, right. Like why put energy into that conversation if they’re really difficult and it’s exhausting. You let go and find somebody else to talk to you hopefully.

Audience Member: I’m Wendy Yang. I’m currently a freshman engineer, mechanical engineer and I’m also an immigrant from China. So, this is something, like it’s not going to be related to your work but it’s more about Reddit. Do you…despite with what happened last year with Reddit, with r/The_Donald and r/pizzagate, do you still stand by your defense of not banning the subreddits despite with what happened last year?

Ellen Pao: So, I actually banned 5 subreddits. So, I banned five subreddits that were harassing other users of Reddit and I personally would have banned The_Donald. I think they were harassing people, driving people off of a platform and it was something that has been really toxic and now the measures to try to fix it aren’t are kind of convoluted. Like if they had just stopped it in the early days, it would have been a lot easier. So, I think there’s a difference between stopping people for hate speech and stopping people for harassment and that was the line that I drew. It’s too hard to define hate speech. You have a whole law school here where the professors are going to debate it and, in a company, you’re dealing with millions of posts and a small team of people who are being paid by the hour. And expecting them to be able to manage all of the hate speech and get rid of it is hard, but expecting them to identify harassment, you know, people who are really pushing people off a platform or creating this toxic environment for individuals, is something that I think is doable.

Audience Member: Hi Ellen thank you so much for being here. My name is Divya and I’m a senior here at Haas. A question that I had for you has to go back to, I guess, unconscious bias and also the role of female ally-ship and sponsorship. I think you mentioned this before, that in the beginning of your fight or the beginning of you pushing towards this, it was often times even lonely from your, I guess, fellow sisters or even female mentors as well as co-workers. So, what recommendations do you have for either someone who’s receiving this and feels maybe alone in the fight but also, how we, not only as women but as Berkeley students as a whole, can provide more of a sponsorship or ally-ship with people going through this?

Ellen Pao: It’s a good question because I hear from a lot of people, they’re like, “Oh, the advice I’ve been given is I need to go find a mentor, right. Let me go find a mentor, I don’t really know how to do it.” I was told to find a mentor and I asked a bunch of people and they didn’t want to be my mentor. So, it doesn’t feel very good. So, I think you realize that you actually do have mentors. So, if you think about, like who did you talk to you when you were trying to decide what to major in, who did you talk to you when you were trying to decide what school to go to. Those are your trusted advisors that you could call “mentors.” You kind of, as you move along, you’ll find more people who are helpful in that way and you can do the same for other people. You provide the advice based on your experiences and as you gain more experiences, as you enter the workforce, you’ll be able to share the same amount of…you’ll be able provide help to people and hopefully, they’ll be providing help to you and building that reciprocal relationship can be very powerful.

Audience Member: Hi, Ellen, my name is RJ. I’m a senior here at UC Berkeley studying computer science. So, I wanted to ask two questions. My first question is, in terms of, as you said, that currently diversity programs are kind of basically, like hiring a diversity or underrepresented minority and then putting them…once the quota has been filled, it’s kind of like ignore everyone else. So, currently, we see that this doesn’t really work, the gap hasn’t changed as well as also, there’s been recent backlash over this policy. So, how would you suggest, like do you think there’s anything you would improve on that policy or like how would you go about it?

Ellen Pao: Yes, I think the big problem is like you throw people into an environment and expect them to succeed when it has been built on decades of exclusion. It’s very hard. Like if you look at the way companies are operated, especially the bigger companies. They follow this path where they hire their friends. Venture started, I think, maybe 40 or 50 years ago and it was a group of eight guys who came out of the semiconductor industry and they started funding companies and they funded people who looked like them, who were their friends and then they funded their friends. It just became this very kind of culture fit based system. And as things continued, like you built systems that were oriented around, “How do I hire people who look like my friends and look like me?” So, all the hiring processes, all the promotion processes… You know, you look at the 360-review process, it’s all oriented towards keeping a certain set of people, the traditional establishment successful. So, it’s really kind of taking apart all of those things and maybe bringing in technology. There are a bunch of great technology companies that are designed to root out bias in hiring and managing, in performance reviews, in job descriptions. So, there are a lot of tools that you can use but it’s like the mindset of, “I know there’s a problem and I’m going to fix it.” I think for students coming out of school now, it’s like, where do I find those companies that are better than others? I don’t think there’s a perfect company. I would love to say, “These are the five companies you should go work for.” I think that we have a long way to go before any of these companies have leadership and engineering teams and overall representation that looks like the workforce, you know, demographics of the workforce in their company workforces, but there are companies that are better than others and you can tell by looking at their website. You can tell by looking at their leadership teams, their boards. I would use that as my guide to try to find the companies that are doing better than others.

Audience Member: And my second question, if I can, is regarding…so, recently, we had our free speech week here at Berkeley and given your experience with the incident, I’ve read it. So, would you say the response by Christ was appropriate or how would you might have responded if you were in her position?

Ellen Pao: We were talking about this backstage. It is such a hard, complicated issue. I’ve not looked deeply into Berkeley’s experience but I will tell you that as someone who… I was this college reporter on the school newspaper and I was super pro-free speech. It was like this great way of getting out ideas, of being very open and transparent about things that were happening and as I’ve seen the internet evolve, it has made free speech into a weapon against certain people who disenfranchised. There was a time at reddit where we had these nude unauthorized pictures of various stars and celebrities and we ended up, like being the site for finding those nude pictures and it drowned out all other conversations because so many people were walking to the site to take a look at these nude pictures. We couldn’t keep up the conversation. So, we ended up becoming the site for nude pictures. If you think about what happens when you allow these really loud voices who are so toxic and driving off all the other people on your site, you don’t have conversations. You have like the loudest most visible group taking over the whole site and you have conversations and you don’t have a place where people feel like they can participate. I think it’s hard because it’s a public institution and because it’s had this commitment to free speech from the start, but I think the world has changed and evolved and there’s a big part of a community and a platform that involves making sure people are free from harassment, that people have the opportunity to speak and that at a college, that one of your values is inclusion, of making sure that everybody feels safe to exist and to be able to participate. I don’t think that happens when you have voices that are telling you that, you don’t belong, that you’re not equal and that you should not be given opportunities thank you.

Audience Member: Hi, my name is Terrell, I’m a senior studying computer science and philosophy. I have a little story to tell. This summer while I was interning at big tech company, I kept noticing these things you were talking about such as superficial diversity measures, tokenism. I ended up writing a letter to the Chief Diversity Inclusion Officer of that company and the letter, I also posted on the intern group and it was spread and somehow leaked from the intern group and many full-time engineers also saw it and they kind of circulated it around the company. Time and time again, the backlash… There was a lot of backlash but the most prominent backlash I got was that I was being offended for someone else. That I, as a Asian male in tech is relatively privileged and that for those reasons, I shouldn’t be the person who’s saying these kinds of things. So, for someone like me, who’s relatively privileged or even a white male in tech, how do you advise someone like me who still wants to be in the conversation, like navigate this?

Ellen Pao: So, it’s hard for me to understand exactly what happened. It sounds like you wrote a letter and people shared. It got distributed pretty broadly and then you got some backlash because you’re coming from a place of Asian privilege and it wasn’t your place to talk about the problems. It sounds like the problems of exclusion at the company that was happening to potentially…

Audience Member: To tokenism, superficial…

Ellen Pao: To tokenism, yes.

Audience Member: There were some measures and, yes.

Ellen Pao: Yes, I think it’s really hard to go up against the system and people will use what they can to keep you from speaking out about the problems that are systemic. That is part of what happens in tech to women and people of color and older people and people who have disabilities and people who have different sexual orientations. Like, that is what happens. There is a traditional establishment view and when you have a counter view, people try to squash it and that… You know, so, I think you have to be prepared for it. It’s not pretty but that is like the start of change. So, in some people’s minds, they probably agree with you but it’s hard to do that publicly at this point but maybe there’ll be somebody next summer who says the same thing, and maybe there’ll be a few people then and maybe there’ll be some people from the team who then join in. But being the first to call out problems is often not… You don’t feel like you’re making a difference but you do. Like it takes a village to change things and that means many different people speaking up at different times.So, I think you should be really…like it’s brave and you should be proud of yourself for having done that and I don’t think you should look at it as, “I was a failure,” or internalize the criticisms. It’s very much, you know, you tried to do the right thing and even if it didn’t work, I think you can feel good about yourself having said it rather than seeing more and more problems and you didn’t try to do something.

Shaina Zuber: I think for the sake of time, we have time for one more audience question.

Audience Member: Oh, good. I feel very lucky. [Laughter] That’s a lot of pressure. So, thank you so much for coming. I am work in VC and have definitely been asked to bring coffee from entrepreneurs, but my question is we hear these things about how important diverse opinions are in a VC setting. I was wondering if you can tell us some tangible things that you have experienced by having a female investor in the room, in your partner meetings, in the discussions that you have. And what has…what has having like all white male VC’s gotten us so far? I mean, what are some problems because of that?

Ellen Pao: I think you see… I think one of the most impressive things about the tech sector has been this massive creation of wealth and power in a short amount of time. And what you’ve seen with the white male VCs, is that it stays in that group and all of these other groups are excluded from this creation of wealth, this creation of power, this ability to donate to create opportunities for people who haven’t been able to participate. This ability to hire people, this ability to share the wealth more broadly and to help communities and that’s a huge problem. I think by investing in these homogeneous groups, you end up with products like Nextdoor. Which is, you know, every time I go, there’s some racist comment about like, “I’ve seen this person from this demographic and I think they were stealing things. Here’s a picture of them,” right. And I’m like, “What is that, and how are people on team not stopping it?” And not to pick on Nextdoor because there are… You know Google is like, they can’t distinguish pieces from different races. You look at all of these different groups. You look at Airbnb, their platform has ways to… They’re now struggling with trying to correct this element of racism on their platform. It’s because you don’t have people who look like your user base involved in the products. You’re not making the best decisions and you’re not surfacing the problems early enough, right, because you don’t have any friends from that demographic, because you don’t have anybody in that circle because all of your friends are in tech and they all look the same. So, there’s like the… You get better products, you make better decisions, you have better financial results but also, it’s the right thing to do in this environment. So, hopefully, things will change but it’s not like this incremental change. It really is about changing the whole way the system works and really thinking about how do we bring more people in who have been excluded and how do we change how people get brought in and how people are given opportunities?