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    Bargaining power does not equate to fair playing field

     

    “What is negotiation but the accumulation of small lies leading to advantage?”

    —Felix Dennis

     

    “Ellen Pao is swiftly emerging as the new face of feminism in the United States,” declared a recent article in the business/finance literature.

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    That name may ring a bell to some readers because of Pao’s recent lawsuit against her former employer. She sued for $160 million dollars ($16 million in lost wages and $144 million in punitive damages) after not being promoted within one of Silicon Valley’s biggest venture capital firms, claiming that the decision was the result of gender discrimination.

    The lawsuit received a lot of attention in the press because of the facts that sounded less like something from the business school literature and more like something in “Playboy” (or so I imagine).

    Numerous salacious details came out in the testimony, including romantic trysts and employees wearing bathrobes showing up at their colleagues’ hotel room doors. These are the details inquiring minds want to know. The jury ultimately weighed in by deciding that the plaintiff had not been a victim of gender discrimination.

    Off the table

    Pao is currently the interim chief executive officer of Reddit, an entertainment, social networking, and news website. What is attracting attention and some praise is Pao’s establishment of a new policy that no longer allows new hires to negotiate their salaries.

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    “We come up with an offer that we think is fair . . . we aren't going to reward people who are better negotiators with more compensation," Pao explained.

    Next: Proposing a better system

    Peter J. McDonnell, MD
    He is director of The Wilmer Eye Institute, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and chief medical editor of ...

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