Ellen Pao

Ellen Pao

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Updated Dec 21, 2017 at 03:05AM EST by Y F.

Added Jul 07, 2015 at 07:39PM EDT by Ari Spool.

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Ellen K. Pao is a corporate lawyer and the former CEO of Reddit. She is known for her controversial decisions as CEO and for a sexual harassment lawsuit she was engaged in with her former employer, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.


Pao is from Maplewood, New Jersey, and attended Princeton and Harvard. She worked as a corporate attorney at several web firms in Silicon Valley before joining Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in 2005, where she served as the technical chief of staff for senior partner John Doerr and then was given the position of junior partner under senior partner Ted Schlein in 2007. In 2008 she married hedge fund manager Buddy Fletcher.[1][2]

On May 10, 2012, she filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins alleging that she had been passed over for a senior partner position based on alleged retaliation against her for an affair she carried out with another employee. On October 31st, she was terminated from her position at Kleiner Perkins. In 2013, Pao was hired at Reddit, and in November 2014, after the resignation of then CEO Yishan Wong, she became the CEO.

Ellen Pao's Gender Discrimination Case

Ellen Pao’s Gender Discrimination Case (Ellen Pao v. Kleiner Perkins) was a lawsuit filed by American corporate attorney and executive Ellen Pao against her former employer and venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in May 2012. Upon the beginning of the trial in February 2015, the case drew much online attention due to her current position as the interim chief executive officer of Reddit and sparked debates on the issue of gender discrimination in the technology industry.

After the verdict in the case went in Kleiner Perkins' favor, a group of women created t-shirts and took out an advertisement in the Palo Alto Daily Post that read simply, "Thanks, Ellen," in support of her raising awareness of gender issues in Silicon Valley.[6]

ed? No probler d signs replaced Thanks Ellen. re t?

Reddit Harassment Policies

In a reversal of policy under the former CEO, Yishan Wong, Reddit instituted an anti-harassment policy on May 14th, 2015.[3]

TL;DR: We are unhappy with harassing behavior on reddit; we have survey data that show our users are, too. So we’ve improved our practices to better curb harassment of individuals on reddit.

This resulted in the ban of five subreddits on June 10th, 2015: /r/fatpeoplehate, /r/hamplanethatred, /r/transfags, /r/neofags, /r/shitniggersay. Many users blamed Pao for the crackdown on hate-speech subreddits, claiming that this censorship mirrored a pattern of social justice warrior behavior that was also seen in her previous sexual discrimination lawsuit.[4] As a result, users created the subreddit /r/ellenpaohate, which has 3,149 readers as of July 7th, 2015, and /r/paomustresign, which at the time of this writing was set to private.

AMAGeddon, a.k.a. the Reddit Blackout

Late in the day on July 2nd, 2015, it became known to the Reddit community that Victoria Taylor (aka /u/chooter), the talent coordinator for r/iama, had been fired for unknown reasons. Speculation claimed that she was in disagreement with the management in regards to commercial decisions Reddit was attempting to make, including the creation of a video AMA format. After learning of the firing, the moderators of /r/iama changed the settings for the subreddit to private because it was impossible for the subreddit to operate without Victoria. /u/karmanaut explained that “Tl;dr: for /r/IAMA to work the way it currently does, we need Victoria. Without her, we need to figure out a different way for it to work”. This, effectively blacked out one of the most popular subreddits on the site.

Soon after r/iama went private, the mods of other popular subreddits began privatizing their sections of the site as well. At the height of the blackout, more than 300 different subreddits with more than 5,000 readers were either privatized or locked. Nearly all rage toward these events was directed Pao, who initially commented that “the vast majority of Reddit users are uninterested in what unfolded over the past 48 hours," but later apologized extensively and claimed that the company was going to be making changes in its management policy.[5]

Resignation from Reddit

On July 10th, 2015, Reddit board member Sam Altman announced that Pao had resigned as CEO in an "amicable" decision. She was to be replaced by Steve Huffman, one of the original co-founders of the site. When announcing the split, Altman added a personal message.[8]

As a closing note, it was sickening to see some of the things redditors wrote about Ellen. The reduction in compassion that happens when we’re all behind computer screens is not good for the world. People are still people even if there is Internet between you.

If the reddit community cannot learn to balance authenticity and compassion, it may be a great website but it will never be a truly great community. Steve’s great challenge as CEO will be continuing the work Ellen started to drive this forward.
Disagreements are fine. Death threats are not, are not covered under free speech, and will continue to get offending users banned.

Ellen asked me to point out that the sweeping majority of redditors didn’t do this, and many were incredibly supportive. Although the incredible power of the Internet is the amplification of voices, unfortunately sometimes those voices are hateful.

In just two hours after the announcement, the post had gathered over 16,000 points (98% upvoted). In her own post, Pao reflected this same sentiment, saying that the way some Reddit users had acted had made her "doubt humanity." That post, created at the same time as Altman's, had far fewer points: less than 3,500 (79% upvoted).[9]

Online Presence

Pao maintains an active presence on Reddit, where she has 4,600 link karma and 33,469 comment karma as of July 7th, 2015. She also tweets as @ekp, where she has over 10,600 followers. Her Facebook profile is private.


Since succeeding Yishan Wong as the interim CEO of Reddit in November 2014, Pao has drawn intense scrutiny within the reddit community and strong opposition from the critics of social justice and feminist activism, especially after the trial of her workplace gender discrimination lawsuit began in February 2015. Pao's executive decisions surrounding reddit, which are often criticized by the site's community, has gained her the derogatory nickname Chairman Pao, based on her name rhyming with the communist leader Chairman Mao and her Chinese heritage. Users also refer often to her firing from Kleiner Perkins in misogynistic terminology.

Outside of reddit, reactions to Pao's management of Reddit has been mixed. The Washington Post's Digital Culture Critic Caitlin Dewey called the turmoil within Reddit is "indicative of the state of free speech today."[4]

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