His attempt at candor generated karma in some form, but Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's gaff while speaking at a tech conference for women brought with it a lot of good things.
Nadella was the first male to ever speak at the 20-year-old tech conference, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. Hopper was an American computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral who was instrumental in helping develop COBOL, an acronym which stands for Common Business-Oriented Language. It is used mostly in business, finance, and administrative systems for companies and governments.
After recalling a time when a female boss told him to patiently wait for a raise and to trust in the system, Nadella was asked about how women should push for higher pay. Nadella stated the women should do as he did by trusting in the system to reward them fairly for the amount of work they've put into their jobs.
"Because that's good karma," Nadella said. "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 give more responsibility to."
In light of the persistent disparity in the compensation between men and women, Nadella's remarks could easily be dismissed as naive and out of touch.
Staying virtually the same for the last decade, compensation of women has remained at approximately 78 percent of what equally qualified males earn for doing the same work, according to a report from the American Association of University Women.
Had Nadella delivered a perfectly articulated, politically aware discourse during his time at the conference, the conversation on income disparity may have had to wait a bit longer before it drew a national audience. For the gap in male and female income to evaporate, the topic will need to remain in the spotlight at the highest levels.
For Nadella's part, the Microsoft CEO showed at the conference that he's willing to speak openly and honestly about social issues. He said he went into the Grace Hopper Conference seeking to learn.
Despite speaking a women's tech conference, the problem of income inequality may not have been on his mind at the time when he pushed his belief that workers should just put their heads down, churning away until the system serves up the karma they deserve. However, the Microsoft CEO has since released a letter to better articulate his stance.
"Without a doubt I wholeheartedly support programs at Microsoft and in the industry that bring more women into technology and close the pay gap," stated Nadella. "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 [Klawe, moderator] advice was the right advice. If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask."