Microsoft CEO Raise Controversy: What's Not Being Discussed


Microsoft CEO Raise Controversy: What's Not Being Discussed

By Rich Tehrani, Group Editor-in-Chief, TMC  |  November 11, 2014

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (News - Alert) when asked how women should ask for a raise said they shouldn’t. Specifically he said, “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. And that, I think, might be one of the additional superpowers that quite frankly women who don’t ask for a raise have, because that’s good karma. It’ll come back because somebody’s going to know that’s the kind of person that I want to trust, that’s the kind of person that I want to really want to give more responsibility to. And in the long term efficiency, things catch up.”

Of course the Internet went crazy. The New York Times called out the tech industry for being unfriendly to women and minorities, and Nadella had to try to diffuse the situation with a response. “If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask,” he said.

This is what sane people should be thinking about the situation. Why should women ask for a raise differently than men or minorities or anyone else? Aren't we all supposed to be equal? What's next? How should blondes ask for a raise – redheads, the vertically challenged, the overweight, etc.? In other words, the comment Nadella made, which I am sure he still believes, should have been prefaced by saying: It doesn't matter if you are a man, woman etc.

Moreover, if you read carefully, this is likely what he means. If you do ask for a raise – even if you get it, your days at the organization may be numbered, or you may be passed over for a position that you otherwise might get – including a promotion. In other words, you may lose the trust of your boss by asking.

One last point: If tech is indeed unfriendly to minorities and women, then they must be accepting a smaller percentage of applicants from those segments of the population than comparable companies.

For this to happen, there would have to be a vast conspiracy among HR departments and company management through the tech world. It would further have to be so well hidden that it has never ever come out in a single court case via the document discovery process. Also, all the hundreds of thousands of people doing the hiring (many of whom are women and minorities) would have to be in on it. Moreover, the people in charge of hiring would also have to be taking these secrets to the grave with them.

By the way, if this is the case, it is illegal, and there have been few if any lawsuits, even with an incentive of potentially billions of dollars. We have an abundance or poor lawyers in the US. If there were a goldmine like this going untapped, they would realize it.

Obviously this is a misguided line of reasoning. Yet it persists because some people who write articles in mainstream newspapers seem to have more focus on their agenda than the simple logic outlined above.

Put simply, it is very likely that there are less women and minorities interested in jobs at tech companies or who have the prerequisite skills to do the jobs required. For all we know, as a percentage, tech is highly friendly to women and minorities. I would assert, in fact, based on attendance in the courses in college that prepare you to work at these companies, women and minorities are unfriendly to tech courses and subsequently, tech companies. If you aren't convinced, I'd suggest you ask some teenage girls and minorities what they think of being a computer engineer and see what kind of answer you get. You may want to count how many times you hear the word "nerd."

Having spent many years in engineering school, I can tell you there weren’t that many female or minorities who even applied. And, by the way, things haven’t changed dramatically these days. I’ve visited hundreds of companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, and they are filled with immigrants who oftentimes cannot speak English without a thick accent. Does it occur to The New York Times and others that if the implication is these companies are sexist and racist, they would not be filled with people from India and Asia? In fact, the management at many of these organizations is from India and Asia. Last I checked, the actual person who The New York Times article is about is from India. And he is a CEO of a tech company worth $365 billion.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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