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Microsoft CEO: Just Kidding, Women in Tech, Don’t Trust Karma for Raises

Yesterday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella appeared at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, and gave some career advice to women in the technology industry that probably won't make its way onto the conference t-shirt: have "faith that the system will give you the right raise."

Yesterday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella appeared at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, and gave some career advice to women in the technology industry that probably won’t make its way onto the conference t-shirt: have “faith that the system will give you the right raise.”

microsoft ceo 

(Photo Credit: LeWeb13/Flickr)

He went on to compare such faith to a “super power.”

Do You Know What You're Worth?

“That might be one of the initial ‘super powers,’ that quite frankly, women (who) don’t ask for a raise have,” he told moderator Maria Klawe, amid murmurs from the audience. “It’s good karma. It will come back.”

“This is one of the very few things I disagree with you on,” said Klawe, who is a board member at Microsoft, and president of Harvey Mudd College, which routinely tops PayScale’s College Salary Report for highest alumni salaries.

Klawe went on to provide practical advice to women in tech who are negotiating salary or asking for a raise.

“First of all, do your homework … know what the appropriate salary is,” she advised. “Then role play, sit down with someone you really trust, and practice asking them for a raise.”

A Tweeted Mea Culpa

After the interview, Nadella tweeted a clarification, saying that he had been “inarticulate re how women should ask for raise.” Later, he followed up with a memo to Microsoft staff, being more overtly apologetic:

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 said I was looking forward to the Grace Hopper Conference to learn, and I certainly learned a valuable lesson.

One certainly hopes so. Women make only 84 cents for every dollar a man earns, according to Pew Research Center. In tech, where theoretically equal work should merit equal pay, the problem is even worse.

STEM: The Equalizer That Isn’t

At Medium, PayScale’s product marketing manager Aubrey Bach notes that computer science was the seventh highest-paying major in PayScale’s College Salary Report. Software developers with a bachelor’s degree earned a median mid-career salary of $91,900 annually. However, she notes, PayScale’s 2012 Gender Wage Gap Report showed that male software architects still earn 12 percent more than their female colleagues with the same background, level of educational attainment, and experience. That’s one of the largest gender wage gaps in the report.

In other words, if women in tech want to be paid fairly for their efforts, they can’t wait for karma, or recently “enlightened” CEOs fending off bad publicity.

“You don’t need to be a woman working in the heavily male-dominated tech industry (or a woman working for a compensation data tech company like myself) for this to offend you,” says Bach. “Nadella’s suggestion that anybody — woman or man — should just wait around and hope for a fair salary is profoundly bad advice. It’s true that a good employer or manager will recognize the contributions you make to your company, but even the best employers sometimes need a nudge. You are your best advocate. If you want a raise, you oftentimes have to ask for one.”

Tell Us What You Think

Women in tech, have you received less money than your male counterparts for similar positions? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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