One of the most high-profile women executives in the technology industry weighs in on the gender-bias case the Kleiner Perkins venture capital firm recently won.
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said many women see themselves in Ellen Pao, the former Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers junior partner who lost a gender-bias case against the venture capital firm.
“I thought what was so interesting about the trial is that so many women, not just in technology, but across industries, see their own experiences there,” Sandberg said in an interview on Bloomberg Television with Emily Chang.
The Pao case fixated Silicon Valley and fueled an already intense discussion about why women are underrepresented in the technology industry and private equity firms.
Pao claimed she was subjected to a sexually charged atmosphere, then denied a promotion and fired because of her gender.
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Kleiner Perkins’ attorneys argued successfully in court that Pao didn’t mesh with the firm, had little experience and didn’t work well with other partners.
In her first public comments about the trial, Sandberg, the author of “Lean In,” said she wrote “a whole book” about experiences like Pao’s.
“For women, success and likability are negatively correlated,” Sandberg said in an interview, which also included Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson. “As a woman gets more successful and more powerful, she is less liked.”
She added, “I don’t know a senior woman in the workplace who hasn’t been told she’s too aggressive.”
Branson said that unless corporations change their views, “I don’t think we’re going to get to a situation where boardrooms are very equal for women for another 100 years.”
Sandberg joked after hearing the comment: “I just fainted.”
Branson said companies must be required to create gender balance, citing, for example, a policy that women make up at least 50 percent of all management positions at Virgin Hotels.
“The treatment of women in the workforce is an issue,” Sandberg said. “We all have it. The assumptions that men can have both families and work, and women can’t, those are bad and those are hard and we need to change those.”