Ellen Pao may have lost her gender discrimination case against Kleiner Perkins but she won in the court of public opinion. "This case sends a powerful signal to Silicon Valley in general and the venture capital industry in particular," Deborah Rhode, a law professor at Stanford University, recently was quoted in The New York Times. "Defendants who win in court sometimes lost in the world outside it."
Litigation could be an ugly process. People and companies expose themselves for others to uncover facts that could prove more damaging than legal claims. During a trial, questions are asked and details emerge. Emails not meant to be shared are read out loud similar to community theater. Texts all of a sudden turn into graphic novels and peoples personalities begin to emerge.
Ellen Pao is not alone. Facebook, Twitter and other companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere are facing gender discrimination cases. Conversations are also taking place outside the courtroom and in the green room and televisions studios across the US.
Ellen Pao took a stand for herself and for what she thought was equal treatment and fair treatment under the law. While the courts determined gender discrimination did not exist companies are now re-evaluating their work environment and women are getting more confidant to speak up and speak out.
For CEOS, it is important for them to have a constant pulse on their employees. They need to walk the floors of their headquarters, visit their other sites and plants on a regular basis, always be visible and accessible in person, on line and through social media. They need to have a team that is not only monitoring the chatter on the outside about what others are saying about they company they need to monitor what their own employees (and their spouses) are saying.
Your employees should be your best promoters. Therefore, companies should create a culture that allows them to excel and brag about their jobs. This includes creating a work environment that is conducive to meeting stated objectives but also making employees feel good about what they are doing and who they are doing it for.
Companies should also evaluate their efforts to become more socially responsible and more involved in their communities. By being involved in their community and supporting causes relevant to the mission of the company and the interest of its employees, CEOs can take a more proactive role in avoiding any potential legal problems down the road.