Microsoft Tasks Its Execs With Promoting Diversity, Inclusion

Following criticism over controversial remarks on women's pay, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella pledges to promote diversity in the workplace.

Microsoft workplace diversity

A week after Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's controversial remarks on women's pay sparked a widespread outcry, he outlined the steps the company is taking to promote equal compensation and workplace diversity within the Redmond, Wash.-based technology giant.

In an internal Oct. 15 memo, obtained by The Seattle Times, Nadella apologized for his comments during last week's Grace Hopper Conference. During an Oct. 9 on-stage interview with Maria Klawe, president of the Harvey Mudd College and a Microsoft board member, Nadella shocked attendees with his views after being asked for advice on how women should approach asking for a raise.

"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 told Klawe. "And that, I think, might be one of the additional super powers that, quite frankly, women who don't ask for a raise have," he continued.

"Because that's good Karma, it'll come back," added Nadella.

Later that day, Nadella fired off a tweet stating that he was "inarticulate" during the exchange. And in a memo to employees, he admitted his answer to Klawe's question was "completely wrong" and that he "wholeheartedly [supports] programs at Microsoft and in the industry that bring more women into technology and close the pay gap."

This week, before the company's monthly employee town hall, Nadella detailed how the company plans to tackle those issues.

Owing his controversial statements to similar advice he had received from his mentors and had followed, Nadella clarified his position. "I do believe that at Microsoft in general good work is rewarded, and I have seen it many times here. But my advice underestimated exclusion and bias—conscious and unconscious—that can hold people back," he wrote.

Nadella signaled that his company will focus on equal pay for equal work going forward. "We must ensure not only that everyone receives equal pay for equal work, but that they have the opportunity to do equal work."

Allowing for yearly fluctuations, "the overall differences in base pay among genders and races (when we consider level and job title) is consistently within 0.5 percent at Microsoft," said Nadella, citing statistics from the company's human resources department. In 2013, "women in the U.S. at the same title and level earned 99.7 percent of what men earned at the same title and level," he revealed.

Nadella also called on the company "to recruit more diverse talent to Microsoft at all levels of the company." Reflecting its diverse and global customer base, the company will work to expand the diversity of its workforce in engineering and senior positions, particularly. "Each member of the SLT [senior leadership team] will be goaled to increase diversity and inclusion," he said.

Finally, the company will invest in more training. "We need to focus on both the conscious and unconscious thinking that affects all these things, and mandatory training on D&I [Diversity and Inclusion] is a great place to start," said Nadella.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...