Gender discrimination may be more prevalent in Silicon Valley, the Startup and VC culture than most realize. The reality is that most partners, VCs and Startup CEOs are men. The Ellen Pao trial has brought these issues to light, but it is not clear if, it will change anything, yet. The final verdict has not been provided by the jury in Ellen’s gender discrimination lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins. However, we can still learn and improve on the current factors that may promote gender discrimination.
First, we have to encourage women to embrace technology and the Startup culture. We have to provide good role models and mentors for women that are in the Silicon Valley, Startup and VC industry to enable their success. A good diversity program that provides externships, internships and opportunities to women should be implemented. This begins by encouraging girls and women to embrace technology and become part of the Silicon Valley, Startup and VC industry at an early age.
Ensuring that partners are provided diversity and communications training will help avoid subconscious, appearances of and actual gender discrimination. Within the context of Title Seven of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 you have to HR Policies and Practices that provide for equal pay, promotions, performance metrics, performance reviews, bonuses, vacations, retirement benefits, sick pay and other conditions or benefits of employment. Having a good internal HR Team, General Counsel, or Outside Counsel as part of your diversity development team will help alleviate the taint of gender discrimination or potential claims.
Second, creating a good employment manual for your organization will help create a uniform set of policies and practices. Next, having a good internal HR department with well-defined performance and promotion metrics will avoid the subconscious or accidental enablement of gender discrimination. Making sure that performance reviews do not penalize women for having traits that are rewarded in men is also a good idea. Being sharp or getting to the point quickly should not be valued and rewarded in men and discouraged in women. Unfortunately, some of this may require us to rethink traditional gender roles and improve communications to subordinates.
The Silicon Valley, Startup, VC and technology industry is ripe for having good inclusion and diversity programs for girls and women.