I admit. I was beyond excited to see Satya Nadella snatch the position of Microsoft’s CEO earlier this year. But his dense remarks that spoke to discouraging female employees from asking for raises…not so thrilled.
While onstage at a conference on women in technology, in response to a question about what he would tell women who are hesitant to ask for a raise, Nadella said:
“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.”
SAID NO WOMAN…EVER.
When Satya Nadella spoke to a conference of women on Thursday and advised them to put trust in company systems and good karma rather than ask for raises themselves, he spoke past a problem women know so intimately, from so many tender angles, that it strained belief to hear it dismissed by anyone, let alone the head of one of the most influential tech companies in the world.
Nadella took back his remarks in a public email to more than 120,000 employees — “I answered that question completely wrong,” he wrote. But his words already had presented their crisis. You can’t swipe through a local tech calendar, or any industry calendar for that matter, without landing on some event about how women and people of color can better advocate for themselves, with their employers’ increasing support. That’s how eager this industry is to reconcile its progressive image with its dismal diversity. Yet a top CEO suggested employers place their trust in employees who do not self-advocate. What, exactly, are we who want to be as forward-thinking on the inside as we are on the outside supposed to make of that? There isn’t a bright side to everything, but three aspects of how all this went down actually encourage me.
1. Nadella’s remarks went national. Not just tech national, but “Good Morning America” national. Everyone found his words controversial. Not just women. Not just the tech industry, But everyone.
2. Nadella’s retractions was fast, far-reaching, and made zero attempt to defend any part of what he said. That’s a pretty clear sign it was so indefensible, and its damage so serious, even Microsoft knew no amount of PR maneuvering was going to be worth it.
3. Nadella’s awful advice is already doing more to boost the modern conversation about diversity in the workplace than any other incident in the past couple of years. The number of men that I’ve seen commenting on various articles, with sentiments typically only voiced by women, may be the most encouragething I’ve seen out of this entire controversy.
Nadella definitely dropped the mic. We might as well pick it up.