Reddit CEO Ellen Pao is taking steps to fight gender discrimination in the workplace, starting by banning all salary negotiations.
Pao has spent the last three years in a grueling legal battle with her former employer, Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, over claims she was sexually harassed and discriminated against based on her gender.
Her claims detailed years of being excluded from men only meetings, business events and trips, as well as being mistreated by a male colleague after ending a brief affair with him.
After three years of litigation and four weeks in court, Pao lost the case and Kleiner Perkins was cleared of the charges. But, as a result, Pao has become something of a poster girl for thefight against gender discrimination in Silicon Valley and in the tech industry more broadly.
By telling her story, Pao has invigorated men and women across Silicon Valley and the world to speak out against sexual discrimination and harassment. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal after the case was closed, Pao said she hasreceived messages of support and solidarity from men and women, from all industries. These supporters have come from California but also from Tanzania, China and Bangladesh to name a few. Her persistence in holding her employer to account for the misogynistic culture it permits has made a strong and likely lasting impact.
“Women were kind of taking me asideand telling me their story. I found it very emotional, and I felt a very strong connection to them. And they were strangers off the street or in an elevator, or on a message on LinkedIn. Our shared experiences created a very tight bond,” she said.
Pao is determined to continue her battle against gender bias. Since leaving Kleiner Perkins as a result of the discrimination she experienced, Pao has been appointed interim CEO of social media giant Reddit. She has decided that she will use her tenure in the top job to shake up employment practices at the tech organisation to help protect women from discrimination.
“We are trying to think about how diversity can be part of everything we do (at Reddit),” Pao told the Wall Street Journal.
Her first step on this journey is to eliminate all salary negotiations for prospective and current employees at Reddit.
Pao says the process of negotiation can punish women and also contributes to the intractable gender pay gap in the industry. By removing the possibility of negotiating remuneration levels, Pao says she will ensure women are not disadvantaged when it comes to salary.
“Men negotiate harder than women do and sometimes women get penalised when they do negotiate,” she explained.
“So as part of our recruiting process we don’t negotiate with candidates. We come up with an offer that we think is fair. If you want more equity, we’ll let you swap a little bit of your cash salary for equity, but we aren’t going to reward people who are better negotiators with more compensation.”
Pao also said the recruitment process would now consider employees’ attitudes towards diversity and inclusivity when choosing candidates. She said candidates may be eliminated if they have negative attitudes towards workplace inclusion.
“We ask people what they think about diversity, and we did weed people out because of that,” she said.
Pao said she hopes to hold on to the top job at Reddit beyond her current interim term to ensure she can see these changes through to their conclusion.
Pao also said she is encouraged by the number of conversations that have been sparked, both in the mainstream and social media, about workplace discrimination as a result of her case and she hopes they will motivate change.
“I’m definitely seeing a lot of conversations on Twitter, in the press, in different areas. I think it’s something that men are starting to notice, too,” she said.
This story originally appeared on Women’s Agenda.