Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is better prepared for his apology tour than he was for his panel at the Grace Hopper conference for women in computing. He gave CNBC and USA Today the same line explaining why he encouraged women to rely on "karma" and the "have faith in the system" rather than ask for a raise.
Nadella gave them the wrong advice, he explained, because he projected his own experience never asking for a raise onto a demographic that faces a different set of bias when it comes to being compensated. He used a similar line of defense in a recent internal memo to Microsoft staffers.
But I was completely wrong in the answer I gave to the question that was asked around how should women promote themselves and make advances to their own careers. Because I basically took my own approach, to how I've approached my career and sprung it on half the humanity. And that was just insensitive. It was ... as I reflect on it, and especially since the conference, because I just gave a very generic answer — based on, quite frankly, what I've believed and how I've practiced and lived my life — without thinking through, what if someone was faced with bias in their career? How would they feel by sort of getting advice that says, 'Be passive'?
...I answered basically by my own experience of how I managed my career through all the mentors I've had and in the belief that if you do your work passionately, you will always see the rewards, even if there is some amount of delay.
But the mistake is to take your own personal experience and project it on half the humanity. It's just insensitive, because, you know, it's over-fitting.
And that I think is the real reflection, I had, which is — and I've said this before — it's generic, gender-neutral advice I've given many times. But what struck me most even since then, to your point about reflection, is as I talk to other senior women and generally anyone, and their stories of how, for example, quote unquote, the system has actually not worked for them. And when you hear that and you sort of really recognize what a raw nerve my comments, especially around being passive, makes no sense.
Nadella seems genuinely apologetic. He even acknowledges women make up half of the human race! But his sincerity was never the issue. His remarks did not seem malevolent at Grace Hopper and they don't seem entirely disingenuous here. (As Business Insider noted, it's very hard to believe he never asked for a raise.) The problem is that the powerful CEO of one of the largest tech companies still sounds removed from reality.
Plenty of gatekeepers continue to assume that the industry is a meritocracy. They assume everyone had the same chances they did and that they got to the top of the heap by their wits and hustle alone, without a helping hand or helping institutionalized bias.
However, when Nadella arrived at the top executive spot at Microsoft, his base salary was bumped up to $1.2 million, he was promised a stock award of $13.2 million for the fiscal year 2015, he got a seat on the board, and has the potential of earning a compensation package of $18 million for his first year as CEO.
The $18 million target compensation is in line with the tech industry average, said Mark Murray, a Microsoft spokesman.
A smaller sample size of fewer than 200 women combined at Facebook, Google and Hewlett-Packard revealed wider pay disparities, according to Glassdoor data. Some companies, such as Facebook, had fewer than a dozen reports, and women earned more than men in certain positions, such as software engineers at Google.
The misconceptions and unfair perceptions of women swirling in men's heads hold women back. And the reality is, women are underpaid in tech. Women working in science, technology, engineering or math (commonly known as STEM) jobs make $15,900 less than men a year. College-educated women in Silicon Valley make $21,599 less. Even with various factors taken into consideration, female computer scientists make 89 percent of what male ones make. Looking at the data, it's obvious that politely waiting until bosses offer raises isn't working.
Given those numbers, it's harder to accept the idea that Nadella looked at his own career and concluded that $18 million was on the table for any woman, just as long as she didn't ask.
Here's the video from CNBC:
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