Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, apologised last week for the remarks he had made at a women-in-computing conference on October 9, saying he had been “humbled” by his experience.
On October 20, while making a presentation on cloud computing in San Francisco he said, “Men and women get paid equally at Microsoft.”
But the figures dispute that. A male Microsoft senior software development engineer makes about $137,000 per year, according to Glassdoor, compared to about $129,000 for women.
Nadella was named CEO in February and reports this week say that Microsoft has given him a pay package of $84.3 million, most of it in the form of long-term stock awards.
Nadella had suggested that women not need not ask for raises and have “faith” that the “system” would reward them. There was a major backlash on social media following the controversial remarks. One Twitter user even questioned whether the Microsoft CEO was “venturing into stand-up comedy”. Some cited a study by the American Association of University Women about how women typically earn 78 per cent of what equally qualified men are paid.
“Nadella seemed to be evoking the pop-culture notion of karma: what goes around comes around,” wrote Vauhina Vara for The New Yorker. “But his use of the term was reminiscent of how others have used the term and similar religious language in the past—just behave, and you’ll be rewarded later.”
“What on Earth possessed Nadella, a man who is so careful about his words, to suddenly start talking like a patronising, penny-pinching middle manager?” questioned Chris Taylor for Mashable.
In an open letter published by TIME, Nilofer Merchant, an author and speaker based in Silicon Valley, California, wrote: “Harvard research shows that women often face a choice of being perceived as either competent or likable (a problem men don’t face). Catalyst research shows that women are punished for being ambitious.”
In Forbes, Kathy Caprino was more sympathetic. She didn’t think Nadella wanted to keep women down, she wrote. Just that he “lacked empathy and a true understanding of what women go through every day in corporate world”.