Microsoft CEO Nadella backtracks over female pay rise comments

In email to employees, technology boss said he had been ‘completely wrong’

Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft, had said that women working in technology should not ask for pay raises. Photograph: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft, had said that women working in technology should not ask for pay raises. Photograph: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

 

Satya Nadella, chief executive of Microsoft, moved to stem the damage from a public comment in which he said that women working in technology should not ask for pay raises.

His view, expressed at a conference intended as a celebration of women working in tech jobs, drew a storm of protest on Twitter and looked set to ensnare the Microsoft boss in his first public controversy since taking over in February.

In an email to employees afterwards, Mr Nadella said he had been “completely wrong” when asked what advice he would give women seeking pay raises. “If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask,” he wrote.

Speaking at an event named in honour of Grace Hopper, one of the first computer programmers, he had counselled patience for women who believe they should earn more.

“It’s not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raises as you go along,” he said.

He went on to say that not asking for a pay raise was “good karma” and might be “one of the additional superpowers” for women. In the long term, “it’ll come back because someone’s going to know that that’s the kind of person I can trust”, he said.

His comments came in response to questions from Marie Klawe, a Microsoft director, who went on to say she did not agree with the view.

Mr Nadella’s opinion on pay raises stands in marked contrast to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook chief operating officer, who has helped to stir up interest in the role of women working in tech since the publication of her book Lean In last year.

How to ask for a pay increase is among the issues on which Ms Sandberg’s organisation, Leanin.org, offers advice.

The low representation of women in most technology companies has become a controversial issue in the industry, prompting the leading tech companies to publish details in recent weeks about how many women they employ.

Microsoft said last week that the proportion of women in its global workforce had risen by 5 percentage points in the past year, though it still only stood at 29 per cent.

– Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2014