Lawyer Defends Gender Bias Probe at Silicon Valley Firm

Ellen Pao, center, with her attorney, Therese Lawless, left, leaves the Civic Center Courthouse during a lunch break in her trial Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, in San Francisco. Pau, the current interim chief of the news and social media site Reddit, is seeking $16 milion in her suit against prominent Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers, alleging she was sexually harassed by male officials. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Ellen Pao, center, with her attorney, Therese Lawless, left, leaves the Civic Center Courthouse during a lunch break in her trial Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

SUDHIN THANAWALA, Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An attorney hired by one of Silicon Valley’s most prestigious venture capital firms to investigate a complaint of gender discrimination defended his efforts on Friday, saying the alleged bias was not substantiated.

Stephen Hirschfeld testified for a second day in the case filed by Ellen Pao against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

He had been hired by the firm to investigate a gender discrimination complaint by Pao and a sexual harassment claim by Trae Vassallo, another female employee at the firm.

Therese Lawless, an attorney for Pao, questioned why during his probe of Pao’s complaint Hirschfeld did not review Vassallo’s analysis of the performance of men and women at the firm and interview a male colleague whom Pao said had retaliated against her when she broke off their affair.

Hirschfeld replied that he had gathered the information he needed, and the colleague lacked credibility.

“I will never do more than I deem necessary and appropriate to arrive at a conclusion,” he said.

Kleiner Perkins has denied wrongdoing and says Pao, 45, didn’t get along with her colleagues and performed poorly as a junior partner, a position she moved into in 2010.

Other women at the firm told Hirschfeld that Pao had a negative personality and was curt, and they hadn’t encountered sexism or sexually charged comments, he said.

Pao’s attorneys have described the firm as an old-boys club where women were excluded from a party at former Vice President Al Gore’s house, asked to take notes at a meeting like secretaries, and subjected to harassment and boorish behavior by their male colleagues such as a conversation about porn stars and a trip to the Playboy Mansion aboard a private jet.

The case has put a spotlight on the gender inequities in the venture capital and technology sectors, where women are grossly underrepresented.

Hirschfeld previously testified that he had a conversation with John Doerr, a senior partner at the firm, while investigating Vassallo’s complaint.

Vassallo alleged a male colleague had come to her hotel room in a bathrobe during a business trip and that she had to push him out.

Doerr told Hirschfeld that Pao had a “female chip” on her shoulder and tended to blame others for her failed romantic relationships, Hirschfeld testified.

Doerr also said another partner’s decision to ask Pao and Vassallo to take notes at a meeting was wrong and looked bad, though he didn’t think the partner was discriminating against women.

Pao may take the stand on Monday.

Doerr has testified that he didn’t recall telling Hirschfeld that Pao had a female chip on her shoulder.

He has also said he was a strong supporter of Pao and has disputed her contention that she was passed over for a promotion because she was a woman and then fired in 2012 after she complained.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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