Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella joined hundreds of other Microsoft employees and more than 8,000 female engineers from around the world at the annual Grace Hopper Conference. Satya was interviewed on stage by Maria Klawe — a member of Microsoft’s Board of Directors and president of Harvey Mudd College — to further the discussion on women in technology. She asked Satya about what advice he would offer women who are not comfortable asking for pay raises. He replied that women should believe in the system and the good karma will pay them back in the future. This answer created lots of discussions online and Satya tweeted out saying that he was completely wrong for that question. In fact, he sent an email to his employees with an explanation. Read it here. He even wrote a internal memo about it, read it here.
In an interview to USA Today, Satya said he was wrong because he answered it based on his own experience.
“My answer to that one question, which I interpreted super narrowly, was just wrong, because I answered by my own experience of how I managed my career,” he told USA TODAY. “But the mistake is to take your own personal experience and project it on half of humanity. It’s just insensitive.”
After the outrage he collected data inside Microsoft to know the facts,
“It turns out we don’t have disparity, it’s always a tight band of 0.5%,” he says. “I feel good about that, but it still doesn’t answer the question of velocity of promotions, of whether there are enough women and minorities in senior ranks. Those are the things that we’ve got to work on.”
Kevin Johnson who worked with Satya for years commented the following,
“If you know the man, you know he cares and wants people to succeed,” says Kevin Johnson, retired CEO of Juniper Networks who worked with Nadella at Microsoft for 16 years. “Does he think about karma as a system that recognizes and rewards people? Yes. But does he know that doesn’t always work and the system has to be improved? Yes.”
Johnson says Nadella is poised “to unlock the human capital at Microsoft” by forging a collaborative culture that, perhaps now more than ever, will be supported by upper management keenly aware of the impact of diversity and fairness.