By Michal Lev-Ram
May 27, 2015

Ellen Pao, the interim CEO of Reddit and former partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, could be in the headlines again very soon. She has two weeks to decide whether or not to appeal the outcome of a gender discrimination suit she filed against her former employer.

Pao, who has became the poster child for Silicon Valley’s gender diversity problem, has until June 8 to make up her mind. At the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, the former investor declined to reveal her decision, saying only that she is evaluating the options with her legal team. (In late March, a San Francisco jury ruled in favor of KPCB over the discrimination lawsuit.)

Pao did decide to address other questions more openly. When asked whether she suffered professionally because of the high-profile lawsuit, she admitted some relationships deteriorated. “There were people who wouldn’t talk to me, who were nervous to be seen with me,” she told the audience.

She also explained that she doesn’t have all the solutions to diversity in tech—women still make up just 6 percent of partners at venture capital firms—but is heartened by increasing awareness of the issue.

In fact, right now, she is trying to institute change via her current company, Reddit. For example, the social sharing site recently announced a no-negotiation policy aimed at curbing the pay gap between men and women. The controversial rule states that new hires are not allowed to negotiate for a higher salary.

Since women are less likely to ask for more money, the practice of negotiating over salaries automatically sets them up to earn less than their male counterparts, according to Pao. “It takes a lot of the tension out of the process,” she said. “We’ve had people apply to Reddit just because of that policy.”

Pao also doesn’t have fool-proof solutions to another problem: the misogyny among some Reddit users. “Some of them have things to say that we don’t agree with,” said Pao. But, she added, Reddit doesn’t want to be a site that censors people.

When asked how she feels about becoming a symbol for gender equality, she explained that it was never her intention. “It was more that I just wanted to tell my story,” she said.

Like her intention to appeal, Pao’s future career plans remain unclear. She will serve as interim CEO of Reddit for one year, but doesn’t know what will come next.

Writing a book about her experiences—before, during and after the lawsuit—is one possibility. In fact, Pao said she would do it now if not for lack of time. If she ends up appealing, she’ll likely be tied up with legal dealings for years to come.


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