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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s Misstep: Women Should Trust ‘Karma’ for Pay Equity?

Oct. 10, 2014
Managing Money
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Freshly minted Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella blew it big at the most prestigious gathering of women in technology.

Appearing on stage at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing on Thursday, Nadella told the largely female audience: “It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise.”

“That might be one of the initial ‘super powers,’ that quite frankly, women (who) don’t ask for a raise have … It’s good karma. It will come back,” said Nadella, according to Readwrite.

The Twitter backlash from the uncomfortable audience was loud and immediate. Nadella backpedaled in a Tweet of his own: “Was inarticulate re how women should ask for raise. Our industry must close gender pay gap so a raise is not needed because of a bias.” Later he sent a letter of apology to Microsoft employees. “I answered that question completely wrong,” he wrote.

We’ll say. The tech industry has been facing a mounting problem at the paucity of jobs for women – only one in four programmers is female. In all industries, women currently earn only 77 cents for every dollar men earn.

Still, there are signs of change. A NerdWallet study in March found that in cities like Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Centennial, Colorado and Lowell, Massachusetts, the pay gap between men and women shrank more than 30% between 2007 and 2012.

The best occupations for fair pay between genders is respiratory therapists, computer specialists, research analysts, store clerks and medical scientists – all are fields where women make as much as or more than men, according to our analysis. But men who are CEOs, or in businesses related to finance and real estate, earn far more than their female counterparts.

Experts say “karma” isn’t going to cut it when it comes to women asking for a raise.

Why? Research shows that women ask for 30% less money than men do; men initiate salary discussions four times more than women do; women rate themselves negatively compared to men on scientific ability, yet score almost the same as men do.

Schools like Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Houston and Barnard College offer classes for women on negotiation, led by people like Sara Laschever, author of “Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide.”

In short, despite Nadella’s faith in “the system” to give women a raise, you’re better off asking for it.

Read More on NerdWallet:

Expert Advice: 8 Tips for Negotiating Your Salary

Women and Credit Through the Decades

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella photo via Microsoft.