5 COMMON-SENSE TAKEAWAYS FOR WOMEN FROM PAO vs. KLEINER PERKINS
Jenny Q. Ta, Founder and CEO of Sqeeqee.com, Accurately Predicted the Outcome of the Case
On March 27th, the jury returned a verdict in the gender discrimination case ofPao vs. Kleiner Perkins. As the world watched, the outcome would say a great deal not only about the state of gender equality behind the walls of one of Silicon Valley's best-known venture capital firms — but also, by extension, about our own attitudes regarding the power of women to blaze their own trail.
Jenny Q. Ta, CEO of Irvine , California tech firm, Sqeeqee, Inc., was also watching. As she intently awaited the outcome of the case, Ms. Ta gave a number of interviews in which she discussed her views on the case, her predicted outcome, and the takeaways she felt that women needed to glean from the high-profile case in order to facilitate their own successful ascent up the corporate ladder in an industry that has long been dominated by males.
Ta's March 19th telephone interview with Sudhin Thanawala of the Associated Press not only yielded ample wisdom with respect to the lessons for women that lie buried deep in this case, but it also included what has turned out to be an uncannily accurate prediction of the jury's March 27th decision in the case. More than a week before the jury returned its decision Ms. Ta predicted that Ellen Pao would lose her gender discrimination case against her employer Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
Based on Ta's 18 years on Wall Street, as the only minority woman to ever found two investment banking firms — managing more than a quarter-of-a-billion dollars 10 years ago — Ta has some practical advice to offer women in the tech sector who are tempted to believe that filing cases such as Ellen Pao's will yield positive results for women. The only positive she sees in the case is its ability to help people learn what is right and wrong in the way we approach gender discrimination. Ta offers the following gems of workplace wisdom to keep gender bias from destroying your career:
1. Never date a colleague — period. According to Ta, it doesn't take a degree from Stanford or Harvard to know that it's never wise to date a colleague. In the corporate world, sleeping your way to the top virtually always backfires, Ta says. Even if a woman should make it to the top under such circumstances, she will more-than-likely be unable to command the respect she'll need to do her job once she gets there. Ta calls the rare exceptions where dating the boss works out, such as the case of Bill and Melinda Gates, "Cinderella stories" that are definitely not the norm and should therefore never be used as examples to emulate.
2. Never bring personal matters into the office. Doing so is simply asking for trouble, as the line between the business and the personal becomes blurred, creating complications that can have far-reaching effects. Ta tells us that to earn respect in the office, you must first have self-respect; and before you can build your net worth, you must first possess self-worth. So, keep personal matters at home where they belong, and bring your best professional self to the workplace. This is one of the best ways to keep your self-respect intact.
3. Don't blame the man if you come to the "race" unprepared. Ta describes the woman who arrives to compete against a man in a 100-meter race wearing pumps or heels and a skirt and expects to win. She won't. This is no way to prepare for a challenging competition. The man gave her a shot. It was she who failed to follow through. Based on her own experience Ta asserts that if you possess the right qualities, experience, and other abilities you need to succeed, you will be given a shot. But, you will still be responsible for making the most of that opportunity. You can't expect anyone else to do it for you.
4. Assess — and then reassess — before you decide to sue. Determine whether you are doing enough to succeed at work. To make it in the corporate world — and especially in a male-dominated field like tech — you need to give your all — to "man up," as Ta puts it. Instead of putting your head down and focusing on your work, Ta suggests that you need to "stick your head up, walk straight, and climb to the top — with respect." Ta says that women who want to climb the corporate ladder and reach the "top of the top" can do it. But, they must do it right.
5. If you plan to sue your employer resign first. This is only common sense. It's simply naïve to believe you can continue working for the employer against whom you've filed a lawsuit and avoid retaliation. If you couldn't get along or get ahead before your lawsuit, what makes you think you'll be able to after you've created the whole new set of tensions that will arise as a result of your suit?
Jenny Ta believes that the career-oriented woman who desires to change the status quo needs to "act up" — to "walk the walk" and not simply "talk the talk." To become part of the "Boys' Club," she needs to speak their language, refuse to let them take advantage of her, and call them on it whenever they try. When you "man up," they will back down. And sometimes, "manning up" may even include a bit of colorful vocabulary just to show "The Boys" that you mean business.