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Women, your 'superpower' is ... NOT asking for a raise: Satya Nadella

'I answered that question completely wrong'

Updated Satya Nadella has made his first major gaffe as Microsoft CEO, making several rather unwise comments to a room full of women working in tech.

Speaking at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing event, the Redmond honcho told the audience that women should avoid asking for a raise – and instead rely on "karma".

"It's not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise," Nadella was quoted as saying by ReadWriteWeb.

Not content to make one ill-advised comment to a room full of advocates for equal pay for women in the workplace, Nadella went on to say that staying silent on a pay gap would be a "superpower" for women.

"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.”

He later tried to explain himself on Twitter.

While narrower than other industries, studies [PDF] have estimated that women in technology jobs only earn 89 per cent of what their male counterparts in the same jobs make.

The relative equality comes with one caveat, however – women have to get those jobs first. Diversity reports have shown that technology remains by and large a boys' club, and the women who do work at Google and Twitter are more likely to be in non-tech positions than engineering, development or management jobs.

The gaffe is Nadella's first public relations slip-up since taking over the CEO role in Redmond. He still has a long way to go before matching his predecessor, however. Former boss and publicist's nightmare Steve Ballmer had a history of behaving rather erratically in front of cameras. ®

Updated to add

This evening, Nadella wrote in a memo to all staff:

Today I was interviewed on stage by Maria Klawe at the Grace Hopper Conference ... Toward the end of the interview, Maria asked me what advice I would offer women who are not comfortable asking for pay raises. 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’s advice was the right advice. If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask.

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