Bend or burn the system?

Have you read Ellen Pao’s book yet? In Reset, she recounts her time in Silicon Valley, including at the venture capital firm Kleiner, which famously ended in a lawsuit for workplace discrimination and retaliation against women and other underrepresented groups.
I am currently half-way through the book -- Pao has just filed her suit and is starting to see the consequences at work and in the media. Kleiner hired a management crisis firm to smear her. Her memoir is an enlightening, depressing, and angering read. Among other things, it observes how Silicon Valley, which despite priding itself on disruption and innovation, preserves the status quo.
The system in Silicon Valley that Pao depicts is purposely built to protect, promote, and laud white, male, Ivy-League dropouts and keep out anyone who doesn’t look like them, including women.
As a VC, Pao invested in promising startups, joining their boards, hiring and advising their top management. She quickly realised that white, male, Ivy-League dropouts were most likely to get funding. Eventually, this became a self-fulfilling prophecy: when you only fund white, male Ivy League dropouts, the only people who succeed and make money are white, male, Ivy-League dropouts. (Not that there aren’t plenty of failures, but as Pao points out, no one is keeping track of that number).
Reading Pao’s account -- from being harassed by a colleague to how Kleiner forbade employees from discussing instances of harassment -- I had a reaction to her situation that really annoyed me. I wondered why she hadn’t left earlier. Clearly, the company was treating her poorly, undervaluing her work, and she had doubts about its culture from the get-go. I was annoyed at myself because this shouldn’t be about her decision to leave or stay. She should never have been put in a position where she felt she had to leave just because she was an Asian woman.
One of the questions at the heart of Reset is whether we can achieve equality with white, cis, able-bodied, straight men, within the current system. Can we keep it and work on bending and bettering it, or do we need to start over and create a new one entirely?
Pao initially tried to bend it. She was the good little soldier who accepted grunt work well below her abilities and didn’t make waves even when she was put in uncomfortable situations. Additionally, Pao went through the corporate channels to raise issues hoping the firm would help and questioned her own responsibility in situations, like Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In told her to.
But it didn’t work, and it was only after months of trying the corporate-approved way that Pao filed her suit. There, she came face to face with another status-quo perpetuating system -- the justice system. The jury rejected all her claims and she lost.The New York Times named her degrading reviews as the clinching factor. Pao argues that performance reviews were stacked against her.
Pao may have lost the legal and corporate battle, but her suit was hailed as a landmark moment for gender equality in Silicon Valley. She played an important role in the fight to make sure pale, male, Ivy-League dropouts aren’t the only participants in innovation going forward. Pao setup Project Include, to “use data and advocacy to accelerate diversity and inclusion in the tech industry,” and she is now working with the Kapor centre “at the intersection of technology and racial and social justice.” Her work is all the more important when we consider that the key AI technologies are being developed from a white, male, Ivy-League dropout perspective.
Three years on, improvements are still slow to come but in the end, since the standard Silicon Valley firms were doing little for equality, Pao founded her own to further it. She stopped bending to and trying to better the old system and instead created the possibility of a new one.