Bottom line: I can’t help but believe that what Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella first said about women asking for pay raises – that they shouldn’t do it – is what Nadella actually believes and that his attempts to take it back are simply damage control.
Granted, it’s impossible to know for sure what someone else actually believes, but the two viewpoints Nadella expressed mere hours apart yesterday would seem impossible to reconcile.
Appearing at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, Nadella was asked for his advice to women who are not comfortable asking for a raise.
“It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith the system would actually give you the right raises as you go along,” he said. “And that I think that might be one of the additional superpowers that, quite frankly, women who don’t ask for a raise have. Because that’s good karma, it will come back. Because somebody’s going to know, that’s the kind of person that I want to trust; that’s the kind of person I want to really give more responsibility to.”
So not only is his advice to women to resist asking for a raise, but Nadella takes it another disturbing step backward: Those women who do request more money risk being seen as untrustworthy and unsuitable for promotion.
Within hours – and after the predictable firestorm of protest – Nadella issued a message to Microsoft employees trying to undo the damage:
“I answered that question completely wrong. 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. And when it comes to career advice on getting a raise when you think it’s deserved, Maria (Klawe’s) advice was the right advice. If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask. … I said I was looking forward to the Grace Hopper Conference to learn, and I certainly learned a valuable lesson.”
One would hope that lesson was a genuine change of heart and not that he needs to be more careful when speaking in public.
(Update: Why are so many news organizations reporting that Nadella "apologized" when he did no such thing?)