As the first male keynote speaker of the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, Satya Nadella, CEO of the world’s largest software maker Microsoft, was hoping to continue revamping the company’s image. While he admitted he “was petrified” to the crowd of 8,000 (7,500 women and 500 men), it was for a good reason. The tech industry itself has been under fire for the gender gap that can only be described as a void of women. The CEO was interviewed by Microsoft director Maria Klawe. While the interview started out friendly and fun, an ill-fated comment about women’s wages and raises took the conversation into an awkward turn.
Nadella shared a story about his rise to CEO in tech world. While trying to manage his career, he was told by a female boss to “Settle down. Believe in the system and the right things will happen.” He needed to stop pushing so hard to get promoted. The question on the table was the tactful approach for women to ask for a raise. He repeated the sage advice given to him by a superior. This was not met with a very positive response.
Klawe tried to salvage the moment by asserting that she left $50,000 in salary on the table when taking jobs at Princeton and Harvey Mudd because she didn’t negotiate hard enough for the salary she deserved, or that a male counterpart would receive. She urged women to get what they are worth and to think they are worth as much as males in their field.
Later, 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.” He also posted a statement on the Microsoft’s web site that he had answered the questions 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. If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask.”
Although the interview did take a rather awkward turn and led to a very uncomfortable exchange, it did start and end on a good note for the company. Klawe started the interview stating that she adored Nadella, and he joked that she had to twist his arm as a director of the board to get him to appear, which started the crowd off chuckling. Nadella’s miscued responses seemed to have been out of character for his progressive views, and Klawe sought out to end the interview as well as it had begun. She ended it with a hug. “I’m not sure you’ll ever let me interview you again,” said Klawe. “Can we have a hug on stage?”
(Photo courtesy of Bhupinder Nayyar)