Proving that employment discrimination exists in all
industries, Pantheon Ventures, a San Francisco venture capital and private
equity firm, has been recently sued by a former principal for gender and age
discrimination. Carol Foster alleges that Pantheon denied her key financial
benefits that were promised, gave her sales territory away to younger male
colleagues, and had a meeting of female private-equity employees derided as a
“hen party” by firm management.
This suit is the second gender discrimination claim to make
waves in Silicon Valley following Ellen Pao’s claim against Kleiner, Perkins,
Caufield, and Byers (another venture capital firm) for sexual harassment and
discrimination. Both Pao and Foster are highly educated, with Pao attending
Harvard and Princeton and Foster having worked at Goldman Sachs following
Columbia Business School.
After Foster joined Pantheon she alleges the firm chipped
away at her responsibilities by taking away her East Coast clients, a decision
that made it difficult for her to meet her sales goals. In addition, she was
denied agreed-upon compensation in the form of carried interest, a benefit that
was given to similarly situated male colleagues. Finally, Foster was terminated
in 2011 after being told she had not met her sales goals and that she lacked
the characteristics of a good salesperson- this despite her performance rating
for the past year being “exceeds expectations”.
When Foster was fired, Pantheon informed staff
she had been terminated for performance issues. Foster is now claiming
compensatory, punitive, and special damages. The suit proves that gender
discrimination is prevalent at all rungs of the corporate ladder, and employees
need to be vigilant to protect their rights in the workplace.