Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s New CEO in his 87th week made his first gaffe. He did it in a room he shouldn’t have to a an audience he shouldn’t have and he got burned for it.
Now to set the scene Nadella was at the Grace Hooper Celebration, an event about women in technology. He was part of a keynote session and Q and A hosted by Dr. Maria Klawe, President of Harvey Mudd college. Dr. Klawe is also a member of Microsoft’s Board of Directors. Much of the interview was easy going and Nadella handled himself with his usual casual manner. The problem came when he was asked about how women should go about asking for a raise. Nadella’s response was classic Nadella (complex and deep) it was also a bit tone deaf given the audience. Here is the audio (with a tip of the hat to Neowin):
At the end of Nadella’s talk the headlines about Microsoft’s CEO condoning inequality of pay and one article highlighting him as systemic of a system that hinders women’s advancement in the tech industry. At a time when many are discussing the difficulties women face in technology and the need/want to increase girls and young women to choose the STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math) field; Nadella’s comment would be stripped of any nuance.
To his credit, or at least Redmond PR, he clarified his statement. First on Twitter:
Later he made a definitive statement on the matter in which he agreed wholeheartedly that his statements were,
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.
I am pretty sure Mr. Nadella meant no harm in his response and hopefully this was a teaching moment for himself and others. I think that the subject of women in technology is complicated. Not complicated in the larger scope, but on the smaller one. There is a lot of mess going on much of it done by a pack of internet trolls that feel the need to berate women, especially women commenters, who talk about gender issues in field of gaming, computing, and the like. They have created a toxic atmosphere that has many women abandoning social media or retracting their web presence to avoid these fools.
Nadella was again tone deaf in his remarks. What he said sounded to attendees like be good little workers, don’t push and one day you’ll be rewarded by HR. Now he didn’t mean and in his head it probably was clear, but it wasn’t to his audience. Now it also didn’t help that his words were chopped and screwed but that doesn’t matter. The effect was the same. There were a lot of angry people who decided to be heard afterwards.
If I am being honest what he said was a gaffe which he apologized for. It won’t calm those who were incensed and it will just confirm ideals about technology and patriarchy. I just know its hard doing the right thing and harder saying the right thing and too easy too get it all wrong.