4 years after the CEO of Microsoft publicly flubbed a question on how women should ask for a raise, he has completely different advice

4 years after the CEO of Microsoft publicly flubbed a question on how women should ask for a raise, he has completely different advice

Satya Nadella


Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has changed his tone.

  • Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in 2014 that women who have "good karma" don't need to ask for a raise - they should get one naturally.
  • That comment angered people in and out of the tech industry.
  • Four years later, as he advocates for Microsoft to modernize across the company, Nadella shared a totally different piece of advice for women in a recent CNET article.

In 2014, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella had some advice for women seeking a pay raise.


"It's not really about asking for the raise but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raises as you go along," Nadella said in a conversation with former Microsoft board member Maria Klawe at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. "And that might be one of the additional superpowers that women who don't ask for the raise have because that's good karma. It'll come back."

In other words, women never need to ask for a raise. If they're doing a good job, they'll naturally be recognized.

Research doesn't reflect the idea of women being recognized for their work and given raises accordingly. Instead, studies and statistics regularly point to systemic bias that affects women's career paths. Across tech, women are offered 4% less on average than men for the same role in the same company, according to job search website Hired.


A 2017 study conducted by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co indicates that, when women do ask for a raise, they're seen as "bossy" or "aggressive." Despite this, a 2018 study by Benjamin Artz, Amanda Goodall, and Andrew J. Oswald shared in the Harvard Business Review suggests that women actually do ask for raises as often as men, but only receive raises 15% of the time. Men receive them 20% of the time.

As for Microsoft, only 29% of its employees were female in 2014. Nadella backtracked on his comment and said he was being "inarticulate," and later "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," he wrote in a 2014 email to employees after the conference.


Now, as Nadella revamps Microsoft's public image, CNET's Ian Sherr wrote about Nadella's efforts to make Microsoft a more inclusive place for women to work. Microsoft releases more data on its diversity and inclusion, and it now requires all of its suppliers and contractors to provide its employees 12 weeks of paid time off to new parents.

His advice for women is also a reversal:

"First of all, advocate for themselves. They should find other allies, male or female who can advocate for them. And make sure that they don't accept status quo," Nadella told CNET.


Nadella said the organization must accept responsibility for making sure women are properly compensated, as well.

"Then the responsibility of people like me, who are leaders of organizations, is to be able to listen to women who are advocating for themselves or their allies, and make sure we don't even have to put them in that situation."

Read the entire CNET report »

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