Pao, now interim chief executive at social-news service Reddit, claimed her standing at Kleiner crumbled after she ended a brief affair with partner Ajit Nazre. Her career deteriorated after he and Kleiner started retaliating against her, amid a climate that was overall unfriendly toward women, her lawyers argued.
The firm disputed those charges, presenting evidence that Kleiner went out of its way to hire women.
Pao sought to illustrate her point with testimony from former Kleiner partner, Trae Vassallo, who said Nazre appeared at her hotel room on a business trip. He wore a bathrobe and carried a glass of wine, according to testimony.
Kleiner countered that it investigated Nazre after Vassallo complained, after which he quickly left the firm.
Pao's attorneys also said she was excluded from an all-male dinner at the home of former Vice President Al Gore; received a book of erotic poetry from a partner; was asked to take notes like a secretary at a meeting; and subjected to talk about pornography aboard a private plane.
Some witnesses, including Pao's onetime mentor John Doerr, have testified that Pao's lack of advancement stemmed from subpar performance, not discrimination or retaliation.
But Pao's attorneys argued she laid the groundwork for the firm's highly successful investment in RPX, the patent company, and suggested an investment in Twitter, an idea more senior partners rejected at the time.
Pao herself testified for five days and faced tough questions both from Kleiner's legal team and from jurors. One juror asked if it was "professional to enter into an affair with a married partner?"
"Going back I would not have done it again, but I didn't think it was inappropriate at the time," Pao said, emphasizing that Nazre had told her he was separated.
While the verdict dashed Pao's hopes for personal vindication, the trial revealed embarrassing disclosures about how Pao and other women were treated at Kleiner and Silicon Valley's corporate culture.
"Ellen Pao’s loss is anything but a win for Silicon Valley’s status quo. The challenges she raised about the male-dominated culture that controls the heart of the innovation economy can’t be dismissed," the San Francisco Chronicle wrote in an editorial after the verdict.