A jury of six women and six men said Friday that Kleiner Perkins had not discriminated or retaliated against Pao, the 45-year-old former junior partner at the firm.
The four-week trial had received intense media coverage for its allegations of porn-star talk in business settings and exclusion of women from company events. Rather than invite a woman on a company ski trip, "Why don't we punt on her and find 2 guys who are awesome?" a Kleiner partner suggested in an email.
Yes, grownup partners at powerful venture capital firms actually talk like that.
Pao's defeat set off the usual nasty-grams on social media and in the odious commentaries posted at the bottom of news stories. A lot of it can't be printed here.
But among the PG13-rated misogyny was a remark from a Wall Street Journal reader who, commenting on a story about the verdict, suggested that if you must hire a woman "hire a really ugly one - the fatter the better." (The Journal later deleted the comment).
And then there were the four "anti-women psychos" who San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford had to ban from his Facebook fan page. "Can't imagine what women have to deal with," he wrote in a Tweet.
Even as the vitriol streams in from Pao-haters who are gloating at her loss, though, a more constructive conversation has been in motion ever since the trial began.
"The Pao case has been a month-long gender bias training to the world, and in a very high profile context," said Joan Williams, distinguished professor of law at the University of California Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. "The same thing was true with the Hill/Thomas hearings, which was a sexual harassment training to the world."
It was Hill who in 1991 was called to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas. Hill said Thomas had sexually harassed her at two jobs, including the period when he was chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He had spoken about his sexual prowess and "such matters as women having sex with animals and films showing group sex or rape scenes," she testified.
Thomas denied her allegations and on October 23, 1991, took his seat as an associate justice of the Supreme Court.
Unlike the Pao trial, Hill's testimony was on live television, and viewers were transfixed. Critics attacked Hill with venom, but everyday workers began an extensive water-cooler discussion about sexual harassment. Legal claims soared as women began to understand that the behavior they were tolerating wasn't just humiliating and sometimes frightening, but illegal.
"She's still iconic for many people," said Joseph Sellers, a partner at the Washington, D.C., law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll. Hill, who is of counsel to Cohen Milstein's civil rights group, comes to speak to summer law clerks, said Sellers. "Some people have to look her up, and they say 'Oh my goodness, that's who she is.'"