The new boss of Microsoft has apologised after his comments on women in the workplace sparked a wave of criticism for being sexist, claiming women should not ask for a pay rise and should have “faith in the system” instead.
Watch the video from the event, called the ‘Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing’, here:
The remarks came during a Q&A at told a conference to celebrate women in technology,
as a response to a question from academic and Microsoft board member Maria Klawe about women’s pay, which is a hot issue in a tech industry heavily dominated by men.
His response: ‘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.’
Not asking for raise, he added, is ‘good karma’ that would help a boss realize that the employee could be trusted and should have more responsibility.
Klawe told the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing event that she disagreed with her boss’s response, triggering cheers from the audience.
She suggested women do their homework on salary information and first practice asking with people they trust.
His comments caused an uproar online, and Microsoft posted a memo from him on its website.
In it, Nadella said he answered the question ‘completely wrong’ and that he thinks ‘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.’
Still, his comments at the event, the 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.
Many tech firms are still struggling to address a lack of diversity within their staff , with many implementing programs such as employee training sessions and by participating in initiatives meant to introduce young students to coding.
That’s roughly comparable to diversity data released by other big tech companies this year.
‘Without a doubt I wholeheartedly support programs at Microsoft and in the industry that bring more women into technology and close the pay gap,’ Nadella wrote in his memo to employees.
The comments were particularly inflammatory because only last week Microsoft reported that less than 30% of its 100,000-strong global workforce is female. That 70/30 ratio is regarded as fairly standard among other technology companies such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo.
Research by the American Association of University Women, published last year, revealed that women were overall paid 78% of what equally qualified men received, although some data suggest the pay gap is less in the tech sector.