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Ellen Pao Returns to VC to Tackle Tech Diversity

Sarah Thomas
1/11/2017
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Ellen Pao, the former Reddit CEO and venture capitalist who sued her investment firm for gender discrimination, is back in the venture capital game with a new role that focuses on increasing diversity in the overwhelmingly homogenous Silicon Valley.

Pao is joining the non-profit Kapor Center for Social Impact as chief diversity and inclusion officer, where she will help entrepreneurs outline best practices to build diverse workforces early in startups' development. Pao's goal is to help startups ingrain diversity in their companies from the beginning rather than through tacked-on initiatives down the line. She will also be a venture partner at Kapor Capital, the Center's VC arm, which requires a measurable commitment to diversity from any startup it invests in. The firm funds startups that solve problems for underserved people.


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Pao famously took her previous employer, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers , to court in 2012, alleging that she was discriminated against for being a female. She ultimately lost the case in 2015, but it had the effect of shining a brighter spotlight on the lack of diversity in the Valley, as well as the challenges women in the industry face there. (See A Vast Valley: Tech's Inexcusable Gender Gap and Tales From the Valley: Bias, Sexism & Worse.)

In the following video clip, Pao shares with CNBC why she thinks it's so hard to change the Silicon Valley boys' club. It's much more than the oft-cited pipeline problem.

While Pao has been out of the VC industry for a few years, she was a founding member of Project Include, an open community designed to "accelerate diversity and inclusion solutions in the tech industry" for all underrepresented groups, along with Kapor Center Co-Founder Freada Kapor Klein. Project Include provides tools and diversity research for companies looking to make it a priority. She is also working on a memoir called Reset, pitched as an exposé on the "toxic culture" of the male-dominated tech industry. (See WiCipedia: Pao Tells All & The Wonder Years.)

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Director, Women in Comms

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Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
1/11/2017 | 3:45:52 PM
Pao progress
Some of Kapor Capital's past investments include Uber and Alphabet Inc's Dropcam, and Pao says she'll be focusing on startups around education, healthcare, economic inclusion and access to opportunity for underserved people. It's the perfect role for her and will hopefully help the Kapor Center and the startups they invest in have a bigger impact on diversity. Hope it catches on.
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