14 Oct 2014
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Microsoft CEO in hot water over gender-gap karma comments

By Shannon Williams

Speaking at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference last week, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sparked controversy when he suggested women needn’t ask for pay rises but to instead trust the system and rely on karma.

The tech industry has been facing criticism for its wide gender-gap for some time, and it doesn’t bode well for the head of one of the most influential tech companies in the world to be making such comments. His suggestions did not sit well with the largely female audience, and a flood of disapproval followed via Facebook and Twitter.

After his comments made its way around not only the tech industry but around the world, he quickly backtracked by saying he “wholeheartedly supports programmes at Microsoft and in the industry that bring more women into technology”.

In a public email to more than 120,000 employees, 29% of them women, he wrote “I answered that question completely wrong”.

It is the first notable public speaking blunder for Nadella since becoming Microsoft CEO in February.

Last week, Microsoft released figures showing that about 29 percent of the company’s employees were female - on par with other tech giants.

The percentage of women in its technical and leadership positions stood at about 17 percent each.

Warwick Business School’s Marianna Fotaki says Nadella’s advice is already doing more to boost the modern conversation about diversity in the workplace.

Fotaki says that “not only are women working in highly paid male-dominated professions such as accountancy, law, consultancy, business or academia paid much less than men, but even in feminised sectors men tend to be over-represented in the top paid jobs.

“Women cannot and should not wait for their enlightened bosses to grant them the salary they have earned. They have to be proactive in asking for a pay increase and learn how to successfully conduct such negotiations in order to change their predicament.

If many women do this, it might also put an end to the ill-conceived advice about their own destiny and change the terms of the debate.”

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