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2/3: The Nadella Thinking Code: Three Damaging Effects, and Three Ways to Correct Them


This is the second in a series of three posts on the Nadella Thinking Code, and what do to do about it. Read Part 1 here.

Synopsis, Part 1: Against the backdrop of twin data – token paycheck of talented women relative to their male colleagues and daily disenfranchising behaviors they face at work - Mr. Nadella’s advice – Hang in There –reveals and perpetuates the pervasive bias at work: Women are discount workers, lesser than men in their intellectual abilities, talents and interests Bias means showing favoritism to one over another or being closed off to the talents of another.

Here are the three damaging effects of Nadella’s Thinking Code:

1. Resurrecting Stereotypes & The Weak Value of Being Nice

Professional women are supposed to be nurturing, nice and easygoing, a widely held fixed idea that affects how we evaluate women, roles they occupy, their communication, and when they digress from such softer skills, their harsh perceptions.

Don’t ask for a raise, and if you do, you’re not going to be trusted is a double whammy: it reminds women that their workplace expects them to be nice, and also their dreams are secondary. No wonder then, while most women in Science, Tech, Engineering and Math (STEM) professions) love their jobs, startlingly just after one year 45% won’t stick around!

Incidentally, you must know Mr. Nadella: CEO compensations have ballooned to five times the salary of our wealthiest 0.1 percent, and in recent decades skyrocketed by 937%? What’s good for the goose must be good for the gander.

But women learn fast that they dare not dream of owning deep pockets as yours.In schools and homes, young girls learn that they are agents in a meritocratic system, their ideas are currency and their potential is limitless. The workplace reverses childhood lessons; in rewarding how women function in relation to others, it also deprives them of opportunities to learn relevant skills. In limiting their capacities, leaders like Nadella and organizations like Microsoft limit their potential.

2. Double Standards and the Bromance Sabotaging Innovation:

Nadella’s bumble afforded the perfect storm for the male leadership in technology; they could have supported their female colleagues grappling sexism and misogyny in overt ways such as - bullying of female critics like Sarkeesian by male video gamers, sexist apps like ‘Titstare,’ and male alpha culture – but they didn’t.

Women consumers control $20 trillion spending, globally, but products representing them are either stereotypical (softer, pinker, more purple, more flowery) or more masculine. In an innovation hungry milieu, “good karma” worker – diligent yet unmindful of her labor, is precisely what successful organizations need to avoid. Diverse teams imply representation of differences in gender, ethnicity, personality, and culture, and safety to voice their thoughts. Diversity and empowerment will bring about unbridled creativity.

3. Leave or Learn helplessness

In their first year at work, courageous and creative women who have previously navigated stereotypes to bag jobs in the industry, face a conundrum: quit and turn away from tech or be self-employed. Exodus makes sense, for deep down we all seek control; the successful control of any space, emotional or work leads to personal satisfaction and creativity.Those who decide to stay, need to hunker down and pretend the wide-spread bias doesn’t exist (including shaping their own expectations or bringing their behaviors in line with others’ expectations) in order to survive. Accordingly, they will suppress their selves - voice fewer opinions, learn to speak as pacifiers, or suppress those suggesting differences – and their abilities. When people feel helpless that they cannot control their circumstances no matter what they do, they will show increases in stress, depression, creativity and productivity with consequences for the organization.

To beat his own thinking code and to create an empowered and aware organization for all, Nadella can do these three things to correct his bias:

1. Get Out of His Cloud

Crunch analyses to determine reasons why women are falling behind in his organization. It’s not the employees who need fixing, it’s his system and his bias.

2. Get to Know His Gals and Build Female Empowerment

Wine and dine the gals to find out what’s bothering them. Figure out what the shyest one has to say in a safe place and without fear of being out of line with his expectations. Organize peer groups to help them develop how they can be self advocates so they can bring about change for other women in the community and society. Implement financial reimbursements and bridging the gap for salaries, bonuses, merit pay, and resources invested in women at Microsoft, resulting in products that are useful and engaging for a wider audience.

3. Know Himself

Launch his own personal journey to explore his deep-seeded biases. He may discover that his transference with his larger-than-life company – might be clouding his ability to see his organization’s sexist behaviors. As he deepens his awareness, he may discover his compassion for the challenges faced by his female employees so that he may be the leader we need.

In Part 3, How Nadella can be The Leader We Need, I'll explore how persons in positions of power can unleash creativity through diversity and empowerment.

I look forward to your comments on this topic.