Ellen Pao Put “Spotlight” on Silicon Valley Sexism

While Ellen Pao lost her sexual discrimination lawsuit against her former company, her experience seemed to resonate across Silicon Valley, including in venture capital firms which only have 4 percent female employees.

"It's shining a big spotlight on the issue of sexism," Patricia Nakache, a partner with Trinity Ventures told Press:Here. "Technology companies large and small are talking about it . . . so I see there's a silver lining."

Nakache said that the biggest problem she sees in women and minorities succeeding in Silicon Valley is "unconscious bias", and even cites research on the subject.

She said that research has shown there's even unconscious male bias in job descriptions or ads. Part of the problem is "pattern recognition" where people tend to hire those most like themselves, or in the venture capitalist case, more like those who have been previously successful. In Silicon Valley, that means they are most likely male.

The other reason is that there are less women in the "pipeline," she said. Fewer women are graduating from colleges in STEM majors than 25 years ago.

She said that some things are beginning to change. Women are now running their own venture capital funds, but many tend to be "micro-funds" with smaller amounts of capital, she said.

"My objective as a venture capitalist is to deliver returns to my investors," Nakache said. "We need to look at opportunities that are overlooked and women tend to be overlooked."

She said that this goes against all the data, especially since women are spending more money and time online. "Women are really a driving force," she said.

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