Updated Friday, Oct. 10
Gender pay gap got you down? Take a crash course from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s Etiquette Academy For Polite Young Ladies: Smile pretty and don’t be so unbecoming as to ask for a salary bump. After all, a raise is a lot like a male suitor, and if you pursue it, you might just drive it away.
“It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise,” Read Write reports Nadella said Thursday at an event meant to celebrate women in the tech field. Late Thursday night, Nadella backtracked on his comments.
Unfortunately, that system that Nadella wants women to put all their blind trust in only provides them with 78 cents to the dollar of what men earn. And if we look closer at the women Nadella was specifically addressing, the reality is fairly grim: a gender pay gap exists on every level of STEM jobs. In Silicon Valley, men with bachelor’s degrees earn 40% more than their female educational counterparts, according to an analysis of Census Data from the 2014 Silicon Valley Index.
Of those with graduate or professional degrees, men earn 73% more than women. And that’s actually cause for celebration, since it’s a marked improvement from 2010, when that same demographic of men reportedly earned 97% more than women.
But take Nadella’s word for it: Good things come to women who don’t ask.
“That might be one of the initial ‘super powers’ that, quite frankly, women [who] don’t ask for a raise have,” he added. “It’s good karma. It will come back.”
Whatever the mystical inner workings of the human resources department at Microsoft may be, it’s a fact that other, less spiritually “enlightened” companies have been known to take advantage of the assumption that women are paid less. At an Australian tech conference in September, millionaire startup founder Evan Thornley unironically said that a perk of hiring women is that their salary is still “relatively cheap compared to what we would’ve had to pay someone less good of a different gender.” (Since there are only two genders, that means “someone less good who was a man.”)
Just in case the audience couldn’t hear him in the way back of the room, Thornley drove the point home by showing a slide titled “Lessons” that displayed a photo of two businesswomen high-fiving under the text, “Women: Like men, only cheaper.” Classy.
Since Nadella’s comments were shared and appropriately lambasted all over the Internet, the Microsoft head has tweeted that he did not properly articulate his own message.
But Nadella should know: He doesn’t need to ask us for our forgiveness and understanding about what he really meant to say. Karma will work that out.