Oops! Microsoft’s Nadella Suggests Women Don’t Need To Ask For Raises, Then Quickly Back-Pedals

Open mouth and insert foot. It's what every public speaker hopes to avoid, only Microsoft chief Satya Nadella wasn't so lucky when he casually addressed the topic of pay raises for women who work in technology. While speaking to a room full of mostly females at a conference designed to celebrate women in computing, Nadella drew criticism for suggesting that lady workers in technology refrain from asking for raises and instead pin their hopes on karma.

"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," Nadella said at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. "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."

Satya Nadella
Image Source: Flickr (Bhupinder Nayyar)

Though it wasn't a particularly tense moment on stage -- Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College and a Microsoft board member, told Nadella that his opinion on the topic was one of the very few that she disagrees with, then went on to hug him -- Nadella's comments set off a storm of criticism in social media.

Hours after being on stage, Nadella pulled an about-face and apologized on Twitter for his comments.

Nadella also addressed his comments in a memo to employees telling them that he answered the question "completely wrong" and that he believes "men and women should get equal pay for equal work." Moreover, he suggested that Klawe's advice was more accurate -- "If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask."

The CEO's comments come just days after Microsoft released diversity data. According to Microsoft, 29 percent of its workers are women, up from 24 percent a year ago.

"Have we made progress? Yes, we certainly have, and I am proud of the progress we have made. But we can all agree that much work remains to be done to increase the diversity of our company and the tech industry," Lisa Brummel, Executive Vice President of Human Resources at Microsoft, stated in a letter to employees on the topic of workplace diversity.