Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change

Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change

by Ellen Pao


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The “necessary and incisive” (Roxane Gay) account of the discrimination case that “has blown open a conversation about the status of women” in the workplace (The New York Times)


In 2015, Ellen K. Pao sued a powerhouse Silicon Valley venture capital firm, calling out workplace discrimination and retaliation against women and other underrepresented groups. Her suit rocked the tech world—and exposed its toxic culture and its homogeneity. Her message overcame negative PR attacks that took aim at her professional conduct and her personal life, and she won widespread public support—Time hailed her as “the face of change.” Though Pao lost her suit, she revolutionized the conversation at tech offices, in the media, and around the world. In Reset, she tells her full story for the first time.

The daughter of immigrants, Pao was taught that through hard work she could achieve her dreams. She earned multiple Ivy League degrees, worked at top startups, and in 2005 was recruited by Kleiner Perkins, arguably the world’s leading venture capital firm at the time. In many ways, she did everything right, and yet she and other women and people of color were excluded from success—cut out of decisive meetings and email discussions, uninvited to CEO dinners and lavish networking trips, and had their work undercut or appropriated by male executives. It was time for a system reset.

After Kleiner, Pao became CEO of reddit, where she took forceful action to change the status quo for the company and its product. She banned revenge porn and unauthorized nude photos—an action other large media sites later followed—and shut down parts of reddit over online harassment. She and seven other women tech leaders formed Project Include, an award-winning nonprofit for accelerating diversity and inclusion in tech. In her book, Pao shines a light on troubling issues that plague today’s workplace and lays out practical, inspiring, and achievable goals for a better future.

Ellen K. Pao’s Reset is a rallying cry—the story of a whistleblower who aims to empower everyone struggling to be heard, in Silicon Valley and beyond.

Praise for Reset

“Necessary and incisive . . . As Ellen Pao detailed her experiences, while also communicating her passion for the work men often impeded her from doing, I was nothing short of infuriated. It was great to see a highly accomplished woman of color speaking out like this, and hopefully this book will encourage more women to come forward, give voice to their experiences in the workplace, and contribute to meaningful change.”—Roxane Gay

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399591013
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/19/2017
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Ellen K. Pao is a tech investor, a diversity and inclusion activist at the Kapor Center for Social Impact, the former CEO of reddit, and a cofounder of the award-winning diversity and inclusion nonprofit Project Include. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Time, Lenny, and Recode. She has earned an electrical engineering degree from Princeton and law and business degrees from Harvard.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Excerpted from "Reset"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Ellen Pao.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Prologue: "You Fought So Hard" 3

Part I Chasing the American Dream

Chapter 1 From China to Maplewood 13

Chapter 2 Sleepless in New Jersey 21

Chapter 3 Eating Ice Cream in Hallways 27

Chapter 4 Harvard Business School 35

Part II Starting Up in Silicon Valley

Chapter 5 Startup City 43

Chapter 6 Adventure Capital 62

Chapter 7 Getting Crushed 92

Chapter 8 What a Wonderful World 100

Chapter 9 Whack-a-Mole 107

Chapter 10 The Last Straw 117

Part III Hitting Reset

Chapter 11 "Clean Out Your Desk" 149

Chapter 12 The Glass Cliff 167

Chapter 13 The Trial 197

Chapter 14 Verdict and Fallout 215

Chapter 15 Project Include 235

Epilogue: The Future of Tech 257

Advice for Hitting Reset 263

Acknowledgments 267

Notes 271

Reading Group Guide

The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group’s discussion of Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change by Ellen Pao.

1. In her book, Ellen Pao says it is time to hit “reset” in our workplaces so everyone can get a fair chance to succeed. What does a “reset” mean to you?

2. Pao argues that, while women and people of color have it better today than decades ago, unfortunately bias still exists—it is simply subtler, and attitudes are more hidden. Do you agree with her view? Why or why not?

3. Ellen Pao was encouraged to see many business leaders and companies claim to value diversity and inclusion, but was later disappointed to see the gap between what they said and what they did. Why do you think some people have difficulties in this area?

4. Pao noted that many people told her they had connected with a specific situation or event she described because they had had similar experiences. Was there a situation she described in the book that connected with you personally?

5. Ellen Pao writes, “The empathy and solidarity I’ve experienced since filing suit has turned me into an activist, committed to turning our aspirations into reality.” What does the word “activist” mean to you? Are there people in your life you consider activists? Are you encouraged to become more of an activist after reading the book?

6. Pao was inspired by other activists speaking up. Who inspires you?

7. Ellen Pao felt empowered by her upbringing and the values her parents taught her. How do you see this empowerment manifest through her story and later advocacy?

8. Pao was attracted to engineering, coding, business, and law as a student in part because they all address problem solving. Do you think her interest helped her when speaking up about fairness in the workplace?

9. Pao worked in various tech offices during her early career, and each had a different culture. What makes a place an enjoyable and welcoming place to work? What kinds of office cultures are more challenging for employees? Are there aspects of your office that you or others would like to change? What would it take for you to speak up about them?

10. As seen in some examples in the book, business meetings at strip clubs or office outings centered around hard drinking make some tech workers uncomfortable. What are some other unspoken expectations of an office culture that might inadvertently accommodate some voices and exclude others?

11. Early on, Pao wasn’t sure about speaking up about small slights in the office, like when she was asked to bring cookies to the meeting. Have you experienced or witnessed similar slights? What would you do in a similar situation? When is it the right time to speak up?

12. How can companies work to change their cultures to become more welcoming to people of all backgrounds?

13. Why do you think old-fashioned gender, racial, ethnic, and other biases seem to persist in some otherwise forward-thinking tech companies?

14. While interim CEO of reddit, Pao started initiatives both to welcome more women and people of color onto the staff and the executive team, and to create a safer space for women, people of color, transgender people, and others who use the site. Is it important for CEOs to show leadership on these issues, rather than expecting employees from underrepresented groups to create the change themselves? What kind of leadership do you expect from your own CEO on these issues?

15. Is the tech industry unique in the forms of discrimination many have experienced? Or do you think this issue comes up in similar ways across various fields?

16. Pao faced enormous challenges when bringing her former employer to court. What do you think kept her motivated in the face of those difficulties?

17. Before Pao decided to sue Kleiner Perkins for discrimination, she asked others who had sued powerful firms in different industries. Many warned her against going to court, relating terrible experiences—and yet in the end, one woman said that even so, she didn’t regret her lawsuit. Why do you think she felt that way?

18. Pao was inspired by Allison Schieffelin’s discrimination case against Morgan Stanley, and by Allison’s sister’s words when she said, “Part of what kept her in the game was the feeling that if not her, then who?” Do you think other people’s fear of speaking up helped motivate Pao?

19. After the trial, women and men across many different professions expressed admiration for Pao’s bravery, including many who worked in TV and film. Are there similarities between Hollywood and Silicon Valley that may explain why women and people of color in both industries have been speaking up about inequity in recent years?

20. At the end of the book, Pao urges readers to seek out inspirational books and films to motivate their activism. What books and films would you recommend to others? What books and films do you plan to read?

21. Pao was motivated by her peers who shared similar experiences, and many joined her to create Project Include. What causes have inspired you to speak up? What would you like to speak up about in the future?

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