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.
Was inarticulate re how women should ask for raise. Our industry must close gender pay gap so a raise is not needed because of a bias #GHC14— Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) October 9, 2014
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.