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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Women Pay Gaffe: "I Answered That Question Completely Wrong."

I'm sorry. So sorry.

After making an unfortunate gender-related gaffe onstage at a women’s tech event today, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella issued a memo to employees apologizing for comparing pay issues for women to “karma.”

In the interview with Harvey Mudd College’s Maria Klawe, who is also a Microsoft board member, he said that women needed to trust “karma” if they don’t get the raise they want.

Nadella furiously backpedaled in the memo, which was the right thing to do and to do quickly:

“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.”

That was in reaction to his interview, which was at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, a high-profile annual event for top women techies.

“It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise,” said Nadella earlier today. “That might be one of the initial ‘super powers,’ that quite frankly, women who don’t ask for a raise have.”

Added the longtime Microsoft veteran: “It’s good karma. It will come back.”

As Nadella found out after a bad reaction to his remarks, karma does come back and, in this case, not very nicely.

Thus, his very quick apology.

Here it is:

From: Satya Nadella
Sent: Thursday, October 9, 2014 5:24 PM
To: Microsoft — All Employees (QBDG); Retail: All FTE
Subject: RE: Empowering Others

All — Today I was interviewed on stage by Maria Klawe at the Grace Hopper Conference — I encourage you to watch the video. It was great to spend time with so many women passionate about technology. I was honored to be a part of it and I left the conference energized and inspired.

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.

I said I was looking forward to the Grace Hopper Conference to learn, and I certainly learned a valuable lesson. I look forward to speaking with you at our monthly Q&A next week and am happy to answer any question you have.

Satya

And here is another memo he sent out the day before to employees about the event:

From: Satya Nadella
Sent: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 6:18 AM
To: Microsoft — All Employees (QBDG); Retail: All FTE
Subject: Empowering Others

At Microsoft, we are passionate about creating technology that impacts the world and empowers people and organizations to do more and achieve more. This big vision demands that we have a vibrant and diverse workforce — an issue all companies in the technology industry face today. However, now is the time for us to get more involved and that’s just what we’re doing this week.

First, today kicks off an initiative to bring the Hour of Code to 100 million youth during Computer Science Education Week, Dec. 8–14, 2014. Microsoft is proud to be a lead supporter of this global movement that helps students discover the fun of coding and, more importantly, how it can be a catalyst to create and achieve great things. There are opportunities for every Microsoft employee to get involved as a teacher or mentor. For those new to coding — give it a try yourself. Get involved, I am.

Second, this Thursday, I’ll join hundreds of other Microsoft employees and more than 8,000 female engineers from around the world at the annual Grace Hopper Conference. I’m going to the conference to learn and to listen. I’m also going with the hope of inspiring talented female engineers to continue pursuing careers in technology while also making valuable connections with potential candidates for Microsoft. While there, I’ll be interviewed on stage by Maria Klawe — a member of Microsoft’s Board of Directors and president of Harvey Mudd College — to further the discussion on women in technology.

It is an amazing time to be in tech — the pace of innovation and opportunity to make an impact are boundless. These efforts are part of what Lisa mentioned in her mail last week to increase the pipeline for tomorrow’s technology leaders both within our company and across the industry.

Let’s see what we can achieve together.

Satya

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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