The Silicon Valley figure, known for an unsuccessful sex discrimination suit against Kleiner Perkins, basks in largely favorable press as well as the praise of figures like Hillary Clinton and Sheryl Sandburg. Naomi Schaefer Riley, however, takes a contrary view [Commentary, I’m quoted] Even as Pao writes pieces in the popular press encouraging techies to turn their discontents into legal claims against their employers, she urges the services of her Project Include on the same employers:
Much of the evidence suggests that sensitivity training does little good. And in some cases, talking to employees about negative stereotyping of women or racial minorities might actually spur employees to think negatively about their colleagues in ways they hadn’t considered before.
Which brings us back to the threat of litigation. Thanks to Pao’s case, companies are not only quivering over multimillion-dollar lawsuits, they are also considering ways to mitigate the possibility. And that means working with people like Pao to provide cover. While they may not be able to, or even care to, control the behavior of individual employees, they’d at least like to avoid the accusation of a “hostile workplace,” which could cost considerably more in court. Working with Pao and her colleagues won’t automatically ensure that lawsuits against them get thrown out, but signing on to Project Include will go a long way toward protecting them.