Jurors in a sex discrimination trial against one of Silicon Valley’s most prestigious venture capital firms will hear a second day of testimony on Tuesday from th woman behind the high profile lawsuit. Ellen Pao appeared calm and composed as she took the witness stand for the first time on Monday, saying a male colleague at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers was “relentless” in his pursuit of her and cut her out of email chains and meetings when she broke off their affair.
The lawsuit has spotlighted gender imbalance at elite Silicon Valley investment companies that are stacked with some of the nation’s most accomplished graduates, multiple degree holders from schools such as Harvard and Stanford who are competing aggressively to back he next Google or Amazon. But women are grossly underrepresented in the venture capital and technology sectors. Pao is seeking $16 million in damages after claiming she was passed over for a promotion because she is a woman ad then fired in 2012 after she complained. Kleiner Perkins has denied wrongdoing and says Pao didn’t get along with her colleagues and performed poorly after she became a junior partner around 2010.
In her testimony, Pao said she was given a poetry book by a senior partner in 2007 that featured drawings of naked women and poems on topics such as the longings of an older man for younger women. The partner also invited her to dinner one weekend, noting his wife would be out of town, she said. “I thought it was strange, and i made me uncomfortable,” she said. Pao acknowledged having the affair with a male colleague but said she broke up when she learned he had lied that his wife had left him. She said the colleague later retaliated by shutting her out of emails and meetings.