Kleiner Perkins Lawsuit Gives Inside View of Clubby Venture Capital World

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She claims the company moved her office to the back annex of the building and asked her to move to Kleiner Perkins' China office "to separate her from Mr. Nazre." She said she refused.

Without commenting specifically about Pao's case, Nelson said professional partnerships like those of venture capital firms, have a distinct organizational style than corporations, which are large and run by a board of directors.

"How decisions get made, how people participate, how they're recruited" are usually through a "tight funnel" in the world of venture capital, she said. A large percentage of people entering venture capital firms have MBAs from Harvard and Stanford, for example, Nelson said.

"There's a different sort of visibility for VC firms than corporations," she said. "It doesn't mean they don't work as well. They're just different."

Originally, entrepreneurs established and worked in venture capital firms whereas today, many of those entering the field have been on an MBA track with a specialty in finance or technology. Many of those establishing technology companies have advanced degrees in engineering and few are women.

Nelson said while gender discrimination still exists in the world of finance, it has evolved since the types of discrimination seen in the 1950s, when there was a smaller pool of women trained to lead firms.

"There's a new ethos around the role of women in society and business," she said. "I think many times we need to look rather deeply how societies, businesses, and families work to understand why we see such a small percentage of women at the highest levels in any organization."

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