Microsoft CEO says he has learned a valuable lesson from pay gaffe

Satya Nadella has backtracked from comments he made to the Grace Hopper conference that women who are not comfortable asking for pay raises should trust in karma.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has admitted that he was wrong when he told the Grace Hopper conference that women should have "faith in the system" if they are not comfortable with asking for an increase in remuneration.

In a wide-ranging interview, the Microsoft CEO said that when women do not ask for a raise, it is "good karma" and a "superpower", and that women would "catch up" in the long term.

"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. "That's the kind of person that I want to trust. That's the kind of person that I want to really give more responsibility to."

Host of the session and Microsoft board member Maria Klawe disagreed with Nadella, and said that she had been underpaid multiple times throughout her career.

"Do your homework, make sure that you actually know what a reasonable salary is if you are being offered a job." Klawe said.

Klawe, who said that she was probably earning $50,000 less than she should have been as the dean of engineering at Princeton University, suggested role-playing asking for an appropriate salary.

After the event and a clobbering on social media, Nadella took to Twitter to say that he had been inarticulate in answering the question.

"Was inarticulate re how women should ask for raise," he said. "Our industry must close gender pay gap so a raise is not needed because of a bias."

A number of hours later, Microsoft released an email that the CEO had sent to all the company's employees after the event, where Nadella retracted his comment.

"I answered that question completely wrong," Nadella said an email to Microsoft employees.

"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.

"I said I was looking forward to the Grace Hopper Conference to learn, and I certainly learned a valuable lesson."

Nadella said he believes in equal pay for equal work, and wholeheartedly supports programs to bring more women into the technology industry.

Nadella, who has been at the helm of Microsoft since February, has made a habit of releasing information in the form of an email missive.

The technique was used to announce the departure of former CEO Steve Ballmer, as well as highlighting Microsoft's objectives over the coming fiscal year.

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