Microsoft CEO: Women don't need to ask for raise

AP Photo/Eric Risberg

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says women don't need to ask for a raise. They should just trust the system — one that at technology companies is overwhelmingly male.

Nadella spoke Thursday at an event for women in computing held in Phoenix. He was asked to give his advice to women who are uncomfortable requesting a raise.

“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,” he answered. Not asking for raise, he added, is “good karma” that would help a boss realize that the employee could be trusted and should have more responsibility.

His interviewer, Maria Klawe, the president of Harvey Mudd College and a Microsoft director, told him she disagrees, drawing cheers from the audience. She suggested women do their homework on salary information and first practice asking with people they trust.

After getting blasted on Twitter for his remarks, Nadella tweeted, “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.”

But his comments at the event, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, underscored why many see technology companies as workplaces that are difficult to navigate or even unfriendly for women and minorities. Tech companies, particularly the engineering ranks, are overwhelmingly male, white and Asian.

Criticized for their lack of diversity, major companies say they are trying to address the problem with programs such as employee training sessions and by participating in initiatives meant to introduce girls to coding.

Twenty-nine percent of Microsoft's employees are women, according to figures the Redmond, Washington-based company released earlier this month. Its technical and engineering staff and its management are just 17 percent female.

That's roughly comparable to diversity data released by other big tech companies this year.

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