It happened at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, of all places. This:
“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…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.”
— Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft
And then there was the uproar. And the newsflash: You don’t get a raise by “having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along.” That is never going to happen.
But none of us can really be shocked by this statement. What Mr. Nadella did was speak out loud a softer and “kinder” version of what countless (but thankfully not all) CEOS, U.S. corporate board members, and other high-powered men in business think about women in business:
Women just need to shut up and deal with it.
I guarantee you, Mr. Nadella would have never said anything remotely like this at a conference or meeting of men. And I bet if you asked Mr. Nadella if HE relied on karma for his raises and promotions, he’d be lying if he said “Yes.”
I’ve been hearing these same ludicrous statements repeatedly over the last two decades since starting the first woman-owned Internet company – Cybergrrl, Inc. – in the early 90s. And like any controversy that burns like a wildfire across social media, in a few weeks, we’ll be barely fanning the embers of outrage and eventually blowing away the ashes of the incident, clearing the way for a new controversy. No substantial change happens, no fundamental changes in the intrinsic way women are perceived or treated in the workplace are made.
Just this week, I sat on the plane next to a rare breed of a venture capitalist who told me about his battle to get another woman on a Fortune 500 corporate board where he was a director.
“I’m battling 70+ year old white men who are making it difficult for us to bring a woman onto the board. They just don’t want it,” he explained, but he wasn’t going to give up.
Don’t be shocked by what Satya Nadella said. Do something.
But if you want to be shocked, then be shocked that 20 years after the Internet industry took off, all of us are still dealing with this kind of blatant sexism, ignorance and condescension. It doesn’t just hurt women when men say dumb things that point to the glaring, deeply rooted biases against women in any industry, not just tech. It hurts all of us including the men who work to break down these barriers and champion women’s equal participation in the workplace.
Another comment about women in the workplace made in bad taste? Just another day of business as usual.
What do you really think about what Satya Nadella said about women and wages?