HONG KONG (CNNMoney) — Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has disavowed controversial comments he made at a women’s tech conference, including the suggestion that women who don’t ask for raises will receive “good karma.”
“Was inarticulate [on] how women should ask for raise,” Nadella said on Twitter following his appearance at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference in Phoenix, Arizona. “Our industry must close gender pay gap so a raise is not needed because of a bias.”
At the conference, Nadella said that women hoping for a raise should instead “have faith in the system,” and described that faith as an “additional superpower” that “women who don’t ask for raises have.”
“That’s good karma,” he said. “It will come back.”
Women make nearly $11,000 less each year than men, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest report on income and poverty. That translates to women making 78 cents to every dollar made by men. For the last several years it has been 77 cents on the dollar, making this year’s figures a tiny improvement.
In an email sent to Microsoft employees and published on the company’s website, Nadella said he answered the question “completely wrong.”
“I believe men and women should get equal pay for equal work,” Nadella wrote. “If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask.”
Nadella, a 22-year veteran at Microsoft, was elevated to the CEO position in February. He had been overseeing various aspects of the company’s corporate software business since 1992.
His comments drew intense criticism on social media. The comments were also challenged by Maria Klawe, the session’s moderator, who is also the president of Harvey Mudd College and a board member at Microsoft.
Klawe said she had lost tens of thousands of dollars by not being more assertive in salary negotiations.
“Do your homework,” she told the crowd. “Make sure you actually know what a reasonable salary is when you’re offered a job. Do not be as stupid as I was.”
— Jillian Eugenios contributed reporting.
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