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Microsoft CEO Regrets Comment About Women and Raises

Don't worry about pay, women, trust that the system will work. That was Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's suggestion during an interview at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing on Thursday:

"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 want to give more responsibility to. And in the long term efficiency, things catch up."

In addition to backlash on social media sites, Nadella's comment caught heat from a New York Times reporter who appropriately reminded us of the research:

"Women are paid less than men, and one reason is that women are less likely to negotiate for raises or promotions. They feel more anxiety about negotiating and are less likely to consider job situations to be negotiable, according to Linda Babcock, an economics professor at Carnegie Mellon University and a leading researcher on women and pay negotiations."

In an email to employees and in a tweet, Nadella said he regretted his comment.

From: Satya Nadella
Sent: Thursday, October 9, 2014 5:24 PM
To: Microsoft — All Employees (QBDG); Retail: All FTE
Subject: RE: Empowering Others

All — Today I was interviewed on stage by Maria Klawe at the Grace Hopper Conference — I encourage you to watch the video. It was great to spend time with so many women passionate about technology. I was honored to be a part of it and I left the conference energized and inspired.

Toward the end of the interview, Maria asked me what advice I would offer women who are not comfortable asking for pay raises. 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. 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.

I said I was looking forward to the Grace Hopper Conference to learn, and I certainly learned a valuable lesson. I look forward to speaking with you at our monthly Q&A next week and am happy to answer any question you have.


Nadella tweet
Update: Nadella apologizes again in an email.

Discussion Starters:

  • Assess Nadella's original comment during the interview. Do you agree with him?
  • Now assess his apology. In what ways does this change your thinking about his comment?