Microsoft CEO’s Comments About Female Employees Raise Eyebrows

We’ve discussed women in the workforce quite a bit recently, and oftentimes our talent management posts align more closely with the headlines than we even initially realize.

One example of this came earlier this month as the Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, made some comments about females in his organization caused a stir, to say the least.


Nadella, during an appearance at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing event on October 9, told the audience that women should rely on karma to bring them a pay raise, rather than going after it full-steam ahead.

Essentially his advice, specifically geared toward women, or at least it appeared to be, was that they shouldn’t be speaking up for themselves in the workplace.

Whether he meant it that way or not, it ruffled quite a few feathers, particularly as the U.S. is in the midst of a political and ideological struggle about women being paid equally in the workplace.

As Nadella gave subsequent interviews over the comment, for which he has since apologized a number of times, he tried to explain the situation and say that he’s actually learned that tactic throughout his own years of mentorship and experience in the industry. Nadella says he’s realized with his own experiences that your work speaks for itself, and that if you put in the time and the passion, you’re going to see rewards, even if it’s not right away.

He went on to say that perhaps his comments were too generalized, and he now realizes how often he comes across senior women in the workplace and they feel as if they haven’t been adequately recognized for their work and efforts.

He also told USA Today he’s come to realize the question that sparked the initial response wasn’t necessarily about a generalized sense of how to get ahead in the workplace, but instead was more about what to do when you feel like you’re facing bias.

In the same interview with USA Today, Nadella said he’s come to the realization about some improvements needing to made, particularly as it pertains to Silicon Valley and the technology world. He points out there’s a shortage of not just female but diverse talent in general in engineering, and he says he realizes how important it is, particularly for such a globally-based company like Microsoft, selling across all genders and ethnicities, to have a diverse workforce that’s going to help drive innovation in that sense.

Since the comments, while Microsoft has publicly stated it doesn’t have a pay gap between the genders, they have announced a new effort aimed at diversity training.

The goal, as with most diversity training programs, is to create an inclusive culture.

Nadella, in an internal memo sent out to company members, stated it’s not just important to ensure women are receiving equal pay, but also that they’re given the chance to do equal work.

The newly introduced diversity training is going to be mandatory for employees, and the company says it also plans to step up its diversity recruiting efforts, at all levels within the company.

What do you think about Nadella’s comments and his subsequent response? Do you think he was well-intentioned with his advice, or do you think his viewpoint is indicative of a more serious issue within Silicon Valley?

photo credit: tecnomovida

October 23, 2014   Updated :March 25, 2015   executive compensation, executive pay, female compensation, female pay, pay gap   

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