Microsoft chief makes pay slip-up

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Published: Friday 10th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Microsoft boss Satya Nadella has provoked a storm by saying women do not need to ask for a pay rise, but should just trust the system – one that at technology companies is overwhelmingly male.

Mr Nadella’s comments came at an event for women in computing held in Phoenix, Arizona, where he was asked to give his advice to women who are uncomfortable requesting a salary increase.

“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,” the software giant’s chief executive answered.

Not asking for a rise, he added, was “good karma” that would help a boss realise that the employee could be trusted and should have more responsibility.

His interviewer, Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College and a Microsoft director, told him she disagreed, drawing cheers from the audience. She suggested women do their homework on salary information and first practise asking with people they trust.

After getting blasted on Twitter for his remarks, Mr Nadella tweeted: “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.”

But his comments at Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing underscored why many see technology companies as workplaces that are difficult to navigate or even unfriendly for women and minorities.

Tech companies, particularly the engineering ranks, are overwhelmingly male, white and Asian.

Criticised for their lack of diversity, major companies say they are trying to address the problem with programs such as employee training sessions and by participating in initiatives meant to introduce girls to coding.

Twenty-nine per cent of Microsoft’s employees are women, according to figures the Redmond, Washington-based company released earlier this month. Its technical and engineering staff and its management are just 17% female.

That is roughly comparable to diversity data released by other big tech companies this year.

Microsoft later posted a memo from Mr Nadella on its website, in which he said he answered the question “completely wrong”.

“Men and women should get equal pay for equal work,” he said, adding: “If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask.”

His memo to employees also said: “Without a doubt I wholeheartedly support programmes at Microsoft and in the industry that bring more women into technology and close the pay gap.”

Published: Friday 10th October 2014 by The News Editor

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