Ellen Pao
Ellen Pao is at the centre of a $16 million lawsuitReuters

This week a $16m (£10.85m) gender discrimination trial against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) that is captivating Silicon Valley, saw claimant, Reddit CEO Ellen Pao, questioned by jurors.

Pao – who earned $560,000 (£379,800) as a junior partner at KPCB – testified that she and other female colleagues were overlooked for promotion and suffered harassment in the firm's male-dominated environment.

The sexual discrimination case is seen as a landmark as it is the first time that a senior female employee has taken a venture capital or technology firm to court.

During questioning Pao, 45, also said she had suffered retaliations after ending an affair with Ajit Nazre: a married colleague. Details of the affair were disclosed to a jury comprising six men and six women, as well as 150 spectators.

The proceedings behind door 602 of the superior court of San Francisco are revealing workings of one of the world's most mysterious industries: venture capital.

"Everyone, everyone is talking about it – this case is putting sexism in [Silicon] Valley on trial and it's a very big deal," said Nitasha Tiku, who is blogging the trial for technology news website, the Verge. "Sex discrimination has long been talked about, there have been lots of accusations, but any claims have always been settled out of court with NDA [non-disclosure agreements], so no one knows what happens."

Gender equality is a serious concern in the high-tech industry that grows out of Silicon Valley.

Just 11% of executive positions in Silicon Valley are occupied by women, while only 30% of the workforce in leading tech companies, such as Google, Apple and Facebook, are female.

The high-tech industry heavily relies on the secretive venture capital and private equity industries to provide funding for start-ups and established firms.