Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has apologized after taking heavy criticism for suggesting women should trust the system to properly compensate them rather than asking for raises and for saying that “good karma” would come back to women as a result.
Nadella made the comments in a Thursday appearance at the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference in Phoenix.
In video from a webcast of Nadella’s appearance before an audience, moderator Maria Klawe – a computer scientist and president of Harvey Mudd College – asked Nadella several questions, including the following: “For women who aren’t comfortable with asking for a raise … what’s your advice for them?”
Nadella, who became Microsoft’s chief executive officer in February, started off his response by telling a story about Mike Naples, whom he said was the president of Microsoft when Nadella joined the company. Nadella cited Naples as having said that all HR systems were “long-term efficient, short-term inefficient,” adding that he thought that phrase “just captured it.”
The India-born executive continued: “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. And that, I think might be one of the additional superpowers that quite frankly women who don't ask for a raise have. Because that's good karma, it’ll come back. Because somebody's going to know 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, and in the long term efficiency things catch up.”
He also asked whether taking “the long term helps solve for what might be perceived as this uncomfortable thing of, ‘Hey, am I getting paid right? Am I getting rewarded right?’ adding that, in reality, people’s best work “is not followed with your best reward. Your best work then has impact, people recognize it and then you get the rewards. So I think you have to think that through, I think.”
When he finished his answer, Klawe immediately said that she disagreed with his view, and related the story of having herself been offered less compensation than she deserved because she didn’t speak up to ask for more. Her comments were welcomed by applause from the audience.
As for Nadella’s comments, "There was a gasp," conference attendee Christina Wallace told ABC News. "There was this audible intake of breath saying, 'Um, did I hear that right?'"
His comments also generated multiple news reports, and swift and outraged reaction online.
“@satyanadella tells ladies to pipe down & accept lower salaries he thinks they probably deserve... Until he realizes being an ass is bad PR,” wrote someone on Twitter.
Another posted: “@satyanadella has power to create equal pay for women now. Dont need karma-we need people in power to create equality in policies &practices”
Another added: “Feeling the #WageGap? Don't ask for a raise ladies, trust karma! Thanks Satya Nadella!”
Nadella himself took to Twitter later Thursday to clarify his comments, writing: “Was inarticulate re how women should ask for raise. Our industry must close gender pay gap so a raise is not needed because of a bias #GHC14”
Hours after that tweet, he wrote an email to the company’s employees and shared the link on Twitter. In the email, Nadella acknowledged having answered Klawe’s question “completely wrong.”
He further wrote that he “wholeheartedly” supported programs at Microsoft and the industry to close the pay gap and bring more women into technology.
“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,” he wrote, adding that he learned a valuable lesson.