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Microsoft CEO Says Women Shouldn’t Ask for Raises, Will Instead Magically Receive Them via ‘Karma’ (UPDATE)

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella


Ladies, take note: A male leader of one of the most prominent tech companies in America would prefer that you hold your tongue about your paycheck.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said as much to an audience of women in the tech industry Thursday afternoon, ReadWrite reports. He made the remarks while being interviewed onstage at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

“For women who aren’t comfortable asking for a raise, what’s your advice for them?” Maria Klawe, a computer scientist who is a member of Microsoft’s board of directors, asked.

It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise,” he told Klawe (who, presumably, was screaming inside). He went on to further imply that there was an incalculable je ne sais quoi about a woman who never asks for what she truly wants.

“That might be one of the initial ‘super powers’ that, quite frankly, women (who) don’t ask for a raise have,” he said. “It’s good karma. It will come back.”

Audience members were immediately jarred, taking to Twitter to express their frustration.

Tweet from Lauren Schaefer
Tweet from Lauren Schaefer

“Thank god @MariaKlawe was there to give good advice about raises @ghc,” one attendee, Andrea Barrica, tweeted, which the Grace Hopper Celebration account itself then retweeted.

The American Association of University Women recently reported in a comprehensive study that in 2013, full-time year-round female workers were paid 78 percent of what men were paid.

To top it off, Microsoft revealed its diversity numbers last week, showing that just 17.1 percent of its tech-related workforce is female. That’s only slightly better than the national average. According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, women made up 26 percent of the computing workforce in 2013.

One wonders why.

UPDATE: Nadella clarified his opinions on Twitter, saying, “Was inarticulate re how women should ask for raise. Our industry must close gender pay gap so a raise is not needed because of a bias #GHC14.”

Tweet from Satya Nadella
Tweet from Satya Nadella

Check out the full video of Nadella’s conversation with Klawe, courtesy of the Anita Borg Institute.

UPDATE 8:24 p.m.: Nadella followed up his remarks on Twitter with a staff-wide email that was also posted on Microsoft’s press website. “I answered that question completely wrong,” he wrote. “Without a doubt I wholeheartedly support programs at Microsoft and in the industry that bring more women into technology and close the pay gap. I believe men and women should get equal pay for equal work.” He added, “If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask.”

Nadella concluded that he’d “certainly learned a valuable lesson.”

Follow Alyssa Bereznak on Twitter or email her.