Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has apologised after offering negative advice to women in the workplace and suggesting that they should not ask for a pay rise if they want to get on.
The major technology firms are currently focusing on transparency and gender imbalance. Microsoft has, like the competition, a poor male/female balance, and Nadella did little to aid its cause this week.
During an on-stage interview at the Grace Hopper Conference, part of a series of events about women in the technology industry, Nadella was asked about the glass ceiling and why women may be held back from asking for promotion and pay rises. He advised them not to ask, and to sit back instead and let fate take over.
"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, adding that it would be "good karma" to leave a career to the fates.
The audience cheered only when the host, Maria Klawe, said that she disagreed with his statement.
Nadella has since had time to think, and possibly some time with Microsoft's public relations people. He took to Twitter to issue an early apology and then to a blog to go further.
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 #GHC14— Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) October 9, 2014
"It was great to spend time with so many women passionate about technology. I was honoured to be a part of it and I left the conference energised and inspired," he said in the Microsoft blog post.
"Toward the end of the interview, Maria asked me what advice I would offer women who are not comfortable asking for pay raises.
"I answered that question completely wrong. Without a doubt I wholeheartedly support programmes at Microsoft and in the industry that bring more women into technology and close the pay gap."
Nadella added that the best advice for getting a rise is, as his host said, to ask for one.
Women are outnumbered at Microsoft by seven to three.
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