Microsoft's Satya Nadella backpedals after saying women shouldn't ask for pay rises

The Microsoft boss said women should wait for 'karma' to bless them with higher pay.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 21 Oct 2014

Satya Nadella has learnt the hard way that, in the internet age, what goes around comes around rather quickly. The Microsoft boss has had to backpedal faster than Sir Bradley Wiggins, after saying it was ‘good karma’ for women to wait for a pay rises instead of asking for one.

‘It's not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along,’ Nadella said when asked for his advice on the matter - at a conference devoted to women in computing, of all places.

Trusting the system, rather than asking for a pay rise, was ‘good karma’ and even ‘one of the additional superpowers’ women may have in the workplace. ‘It'll come back because somebody's going to know that's the kind of person that I want to trust,’ he said.

Nadella was immediately challenged on stage by Microsoft director Maria Klawe, who said it was ‘one of the very few things I disagree with you on’ - to cheers from the audience.

The comments soon stirred up a storm on Twitter, leading the Microsoft chief executive to tweet a rather lame non-apology.

He then sent out an email to Microsoft employees, also published on the firm’s website, with a tad more contrition.

‘I answered that question completely wrong. Without a doubt I wholeheartedly support programs at Microsoft and in the industry that bring more women into technology and close the pay gap,’ he wrote.

‘I believe men and women should get equal pay for equal work. And when it comes to career advice on getting a raise when you think it’s deserved, Maria’s advice was the right advice. If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask.’

Microsoft isn’t exactly a bastion of gender equality in the famously male-dominated tech industry (which is, of course, due at least in part to a lack of women studying computer science). Only 29% of its workforce are women, a proportion which falls to just 17% in tech and at leadership level. If you are part of that minority, though, today might be a good day to ask for that raise...

Want better advice on how to ask for a pay rise from Britain's highest-flying women? Come to our Inspiring Women event on 20th November to hear from speakers including Thomas Cook boss Harriet Green, Links of London founder Annoushka Ducas and M&S style director Belinda Earl. Check out the progamme and book tickets here.

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