Every once in a while, a good man briefly takes on the condescending, paternalistic, stifling, sexist role we thought we’d only see from someone else. That’s what happened yesterday when Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told a group of mostly women gathered at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing not to ask for raises but to instead trust in karma.
When Maria Klawe – who sits on Microsoft’s board in addition to being a computer scientist and the president of Harvey Mudd College – prodded Nadella for advice on behalf of women who don’t know how to ask for a raise, he replied, “It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise.”
It’s as though Nadella was hungry and forgot to eat a Snickers bar, which would have turned him once again into the good man and champion of women we expect him to be.
Yes, he stepped in it. Here’s the problem – he probably assumed the hypothetical woman asking for a raise was already being paid fairly. Sadly, we can safely assume that statistically, she was not. According to tech site readwrite, citing a 2014 study by Joint Venture Silicon Valley, “Men who hold graduate or professional degrees earn a whopping 73 percent more than women with the same educational qualifications, while men with a bachelor’s degree earn 40 percent more than women with the same credentials.”
Thank you, Satya Nadella, for igniting the discussion on equal pay once again. And women, part of this is on us. Let’s not forget that. Like Nadella said in his response later to the press, “If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask.”