Microsoft's CEO has rather put his foot in it with a statement he made concerning wages for women in tech.
Nadella was being interviewed at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, when the topic turned to how women who aren't comfortable with asking for a pay raise are best off approaching the subject with their employer.
Maria Klawe asked what his advice would be for women in that position, and Nadella cited an observation from Mike Maples, president of Microsoft when Nadella joined the company, namely that human resources systems are efficient long-term, but not short-term.
PC World reports that Nadella then said: "...it's not just really about asking for the raise, but knowing 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."
In other words, just keep quiet and you'll get your reward eventually – trust the system. The system which has caused the gender gap in pay in the first place...
This piece of advice did not go down particularly well with the event audience, and the world at large afterwards when Nadella's comment was spread all over Twitter.
Once the media caught the story, Nadella was quick to go into damage control mode and retract the comment. He later tweeted: "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."
As one Mark McBride replied on the thread: "So you're just saying 'trust the system that created the structural inequity' in a slightly different way?"
The tweet wasn't enough, though – particularly after this story went big with the media – as Nadella then issued an email to all Microsoft employees with a far cleaner cut apology. It read: "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 programs at Microsoft and in the industry that bring more women into technology and close the pay gap."
"I believe men and women should get equal pay for equal work. And when it comes to career advice on getting a raise when you think it's deserved, Maria's advice was the right advice. If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask."
Nadella concluded: "I said I was looking forward to the Grace Hopper Conference to learn, and I certainly learned a valuable lesson."
Nadella linked to his email on his Twitter feed, but it's still not enough for many angered folks out there. Aimee Maree told him: "It's not good enough if you wanted to you as CEO could turn around tomorrow and order an equal pay evaluation and correct it!"