Microsoft CEO Inadvertently Shines Light on Gender Inequality

by Matt Klassen on October 14, 2014

Late last week Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella inadvertently revealed the lingering presence of the gender gap in today’s workplace, stepping in a steaming pile of controversy when he suggested that women shouldn’t ask for raises, but rather trust that the system will take care of them. What was even worse for Nadella is that his comments were made while at an event focused on women in the tech industry, raising the ire of many in attendance and drawing condemnation from women’s equality and rights groups across the nation.

The point Nadella was trying to make is that women, like their male counterparts in the tech industry I assume, don’t need to ask for increased wages, as the current landscape is such that women are able to advance in the workplace on merit alone, ostensibly adopting a seen-but-not-heard mentality. It’s these sorts of women, Nadella noted, who will generate “good karma,” their actions automatically recognized and due credit automatically given. Oh Nadella, you naïve fool.

While most companies strive for equal pay for equal work gender equality standards, the reality is still far from ideal, as studies have shown that women are still lagging behind their male counterparts when it comes to wages, and if women cease making their voices heard in this equality debate the fear is, of course, that ‘good karma’ may simply not be enough to once and for all establish real, substantive, systemic change.

“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 in the interview, which was at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Phoenix. “And that, I think, might be one of the additional superpowers that quite frankly women who don’t ask for raises have.”

“Because that’s good karma,” Nadella continued. “It’ll 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 that I want to really give more responsibility to.”

The problem is, of course, that the ‘system’ Nadella expects women to trust in is one created by men for men in a male dominated tech industry. In fact, according to Microsoft’s own diversity statistics, woman account for 29 percent of the company’s workforce, and although that’s up from 24 percent last year and is on par with the rest of the industry, it still seems woefully inadequate.

To his credit Nadella has quickly acknowledged his shamefully poor advice and his ignorance and/or insensitivity to the struggle for workplace equality and gave a heartfelt apology, saying his advice was “inarticulate” and “completely wrong,” and encouraged everyone to pursue raises and advancement in their industries.

But of course lip service apologies are easy, substantive change is hard, and these comments have now placed Microsoft at the centre of the charge to fix the “sexism bug” inherent in the tech industry. Whether or not Microsoft accepts the challenge, however, remains to be seen.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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