Microsoft CEO: Women Should Rely on 'Good Karma,' Not Ask for Raises

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is under fire for his comments about working women, in an industry that already has a reputation as being woman unfriendly.


During the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference in Phoenix, Nadella was asked his advice for women who are uncomfortable asking for raises or putting themselves up for promotions or advanced opportunities.

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. “That, I think, 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’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. And in the long-term efficiency, things catch up.

“And I wonderand I’m not saying that that’s the only approachI wonder whether taking the long term helps solve for what might be perceived as this uncomfortable thing of, ‘Hey, am I getting paid right’ ‘Am I getting rewarded right’ Because the reality is, your best work is not followed with your best reward. Your best work then has impact, people recognize it, and then you get the rewards. So you have to somehow think that through, I think.”

READ MORE: Ask the White GuyKarma Is Not a Career Strategy

See Nadella’s comments here, starting at the 1:35:05 mark.

When Nadella’s interviewer, Dr. Maria KlawePresident of Harvey Mudd College, a computer scientist by trade and a member of Microsoft’s board of directorspolitely responded, “This is one of the very few things I disagree with you on,” the crowd applauded.

Critics quickly took to Twitter, posting comments such as:

Nadella eventually apologized on his own Twitter feed:

He also sent an email to Microsoft employees in which he said he “answered the 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,” he wrote. “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’s advice was the right advice. If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask.”

Microsoft recently released its workforce demographics, revealing that the company’s global workforce is just 29 percent women. In tech positions, the number drops to 17.1 percent.

Moreover, only 17.3 percent of Microsoft’s “leadership” positions are held by women. This compares with a U.S. workforce national average (Catalyst data) of 29 percent, a DiversityInc Top 50 average of 29.3 percent, and a DiversityInc Top 10 average of 32.3 percent.

Other tech companies that had fought for years to hide their workforce demographics started to finally release them publicly earlier this year, and most had roughly the same female representation as Microsoft. Google’s global workforce includes just 21 percent women, while 30 percent of Apple and Twitter‘s employees are women, 31 percent of Facebook‘s and 37 percent of Yahoo!‘s workforce.

Amongst leadership, all of these companies are also grossly underrepresented by women, but still outperform Microsoft (Google and Twitter: 21 percent, Yahoo! and Facebook: 23 percent, Apple: 28 percent). When it went public earlier this year, Twitter’s entire board of directors were white men, and only one woman was counted amongst their investors and executive officers (Vijaya Gadde was hired as the company’s general counsel just two months before the IPO release).

This is all the more shocking when you consider that women earn more than half of all college degrees in the United States, including 62 percent of associate’s degrees, more than 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees, nearly 63 percent of master’s and more than 53 percent of doctoral degrees.

Tech companies, or companies with strong STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) workforce components that emphasize gender equity, have more inclusive cultures and better human-capital results, DiversityInc Top 50 data show. For example, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, No. 1 this year in the Top 50, has worked hard to improve gender equity in critical jobs. Christi Shaw, President, now has women in scientific functions as more than half of her direct reports.

Later this week, a story on DiversityInc Best Practices will detail how Top 50 companies with strong STEM workforcesincluding IBM, BASF and Monsantoare hiring, retaining and promoting more women in technical jobs.

Research by Harvard University Professor of Economics Claudia Goldin shows that women in computer engineer, scientist or programmer jobs make anywhere from 84 percent to 90 percent of men in the same position, controlling for age, race, experience and education.

Latest News

women in politics

Women Remain Vastly Underrepresented in Local Government, Despite Conventional Wisdom Suggesting Otherwise

Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sat behind President Biden during his first speech to a joint session of Congress on April 28 — representing the first time two women held such important and high-ranking political offices. Even after such a historic moment, the reality…

voter restriction

Florida Follows Georgia’s Lead, Approves Racist Anti-Voter Restrictions Aimed Primarily at Democrats and People of Color

Not content with letting Georgia be the only state in the South demonized for its bigoted and racist attacks on voter rights, Florida has jumped into the fray in issuing its own series of new and highly controversial “Jim Crow-esque” anti-voting restrictions aimed specifically at disenfranchising Democrats and voters of…

Kentucky Derby

Inspired by Protests Over Breonna Taylor’s Death, Humana and Kentucky Derby Festival Launch Diversity and Inclusion Initiative in Louisville

Ahead of the 147th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 1, Kentucky Derby officials and Humana (No. 25 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020) have announced a new equity initiative meant to make the race more accessible and welcoming to everyone, regardless of race, gender, age…

crimes against human ity

‘Crime Against Humanity’; Global Report Says the US Should Be Prosecuted in International Criminal Court for Ongoing Police Murders of Black Americans

In what has been described as a “devastating” report, human rights experts and lawyers have investigated and released a 188-page analysis of the ongoing police brutality and killing of Black Americans in the U.S. Their verdict: the country is guilty of “crimes against humanity” and should be prosecuted for its…

Tokyo, Olympics

Tokyo Olympics to Encourage Significant Increase in Gender Equality Among Event’s Corporate Sponsors

Besides simply being a showcase for some of the most talented and athletic men and women on the planet, the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics are hoping their event this summer can also help promote significant change in corporate culture, both in Japan and around the globe. Bloomberg’s Ayai Tomisawa…

AbbVie Joins Over 400 Leading US Employers in the Human Rights Campaign’s ‘Business Coalition for the Equality Act’

Originally published on LinkedIn. AbbVie ranked No. 19 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020.   AbbVie has joined a group of over 400 corporations and leading U.S. employers to support the Human Rights Campaign’s “Business Coalition for the Equality Act,” an initiative advocating for federal…

Accenture and Goodwill Develop Virtual Experience To Help People Impacted by the Criminal Justice System Enter the Workforce

Originally published at prnewswire.com. Accenture is ranked No. 5 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020.   Goodwill Industries International has teamed with Accenture to develop an innovative virtual experience called Project Overcome. The experience is designed for people impacted by the criminal justice system who want to…