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Sequoia Partner’s Sex Scandal Stirs Talk Of How VCs Treat Women

"They'd be like, 'You should really be home with your kids. Are you sure it's a good idea for you to be working? Because your kids need you at home,'" she said.

"There is a latent unconscious bias in an industry like venture capital such that if you ask most people do they feel they're racist, do they feel they're sexist? They will answer that they don't," Strober said.

The high-profile gender-discrimination case brought against VC firm Kleiner Perkins by then-partner Ellen Pao in 2012 sparked a nationwide conversation about what happens in tech when diversity is ignored. Under pressure from news outlets and employees, Google, Facebook and Pinterest started releasing their workforce demographics and making plans to improve representation of women and minorities.

Incentivizing diversity Few of the venture-capital firms that have backed these companies have followed their lead.

"No one has held them accountable," Wolaner said. "Until they start losing out on investment deals or getting pressure to diversify from investors, it's not going to change."

Strober, who has worked with companies on diversity issues, said making diversity a priority means giving people an incentive to diversify.

"The person in charge has to be 100 percent behind this," the professor said. "So, if the CEO says, 'I want you to hire more women and I want you to spend time finding qualified women, and I'm going to make your bonus depend in part on how well you succeed in this,' guess what? Everybody will fall in line."

After prevailing in the Pao case, which aired the firm's dirty laundry, including an incident where one male partner showed up at a colleague's hotel room in a bathrobe, Kleiner Perkins began publishing its own diversity data.

In an onstage interview with Fortune writer Dan Primack in July, Kleiner partner John Doerr, who testified in the Pao case, characterized the victory as a Pyrrhic one and bashed his own industry for its record of excluding women.

"I believe this is an overdue conversation," Doerr told Primack. "We collectively are pathetic on the issue. Six percent of the venture capitalists are female. You know as a matter of social justice, because it's better for business, because it's our values, that's just dumb."

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