When Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) CEO Satya Nadella agreed to do a series of interviews with USA Today and CNBC, the question on everyone’s mind was not about his company’s new strategy for the cloud but rather ‘can you explain your comments on women’s raises and Karma?’.
Earlier in October Nadella was speaking at an event in Phoenix where he was asked how women should go about asking for a raise in the IT industry, which is dominated by males. Nadella suggested that women should rely on “good karma” for that sought-after pay bump.
“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,” he said. In an era of trigger-happy accusations of misogyny amongst the twittering crowd, Nadella’s comments were pure PR disaster. He quickly took to Twitter to say he misspoke.
Speaking to USA Today in an interview published Monday morning, he said that the comment was an issue of misunderstanding.
“My answer to that one question, which I interpreted super narrowly, was just wrong, because I answered by my own experience of how I managed my career,” he said. “But the mistake is to take your own personal experience and project it on half of humanity. It’s just insensitive.”
Nadella was also quick to point out that Microsoft’s own stats show that pay inequality simply doesn’t exist within company ranks.
“One of the pieces of data that we even talked about today, because after coming back from here, the conference, I just asked our HR department to just go look at pay equity, right, just per similar, same level and same title, what is the compensation? And it turns out we don’t have disparity. In our case it’s always in a tight band of 0.5%,” he said.
Simply a mistake
While bloggers a plenty have written at length about Nadella’s comments, by all accounts it simply was a mistake — a poor choice of words — and Nadella has paid the price for it. No doubt Nadella has been scolded firmly by Microsoft’s communications department. Whatever parable he was trying to use backfired, making Microsoft and Nadella look like villains.
As Nadella said, within the ranks of Microsoft pay-inequality based on gender simply doesn’t exist. Without Nadella’s poor choice of words, Microsoft could be in command of that narrative instead of having to play defense.