I like to think that we’re past blatant forms of sexism at work. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty of gender discrimination, but I’d like to think it’s more subtle these days. On Thursday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella proved me wrong. He told female technology employees that if they ask for a raise they won’t be trusted. His exact words:
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. And 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.
He said this out loud… While he was on stage… Addressing a group of female technologists celebrating women in computing. After his talk, someone most likely pointed out to him that this was an insanely stupid comment (not to mention potentially illegal and actionable). Nadella retracted, stating his comment was “completely wrong.”
Traditionally, people don’t like those who behave counter to their gender stereotypes (or counter to how their gender is expected to behave). Men are supposed to be the aggressive sex – climbing corporate ladders, assuming leadership positions, and asking for raises. Women are supposed to be nice and not rock the boat. Asking for a raise isn’t ladylike. Therefore, women who ask for raises can’t be trusted.
It’s one thing to have these stereotypes impact your decisions without your conscious awareness, it’s a whole different ballgame when you recommend to women that they should adhere to these stereotypes.
The worst part is that he’s a smart guy. He’s the CEO of one of the largest companies in the world. Yet, despite all the discussion on the gender pay gap, particularly in the field of technology, he didn’t realize that his comments would be inappropriate. He actually thought he was dishing out some valuable advice.
And, as for karma? Judging by the Twitter response to his comments, Nadella may have some karma problems of his own to deal with.