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1/3: Nadella and Women: Four Alarming Facts

This is part 1 of a 3-part series on the Thinking Code of Satya Nadella; its effect on an organization; and what to do about it. Click Follow to read more from Dr. Shaifali Sandhya.

How should women ask for a raise? Hang in there, advises Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, to women in technology, for “the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along.” Take my word for it, continues Nadella, “Good karma will come back.” And “that’s the kind of person that I want to trust, that I want to give responsibility to.”

The ever widening difference between what women earn in comparison to male colleagues, is as important to a gathering of the 7500 most formidable and talented women in technology, as it is to the rest of us. So, how to make more money would have been especially important counsel coming from Microsoft’s leader - being paid $18 million for 2015 – except it didn’t come, and what did, was woeful. Instead, as outrage poured on social media, Nadella swiftly back-pedaled, saying he was “inarticulate” and conceding that the “industry must close the gap.”

The apology, like the comment, was flawed, but interestingly – it hacked Nadella’s thinking code and with it, an insider tip to unwritten success rules in the work-place. While his advice – a leap of faith and blind trust - could work for an arranged marriage, there are reasons why it is toxic for our psyche, and devastating for the technology industry. However, this could very well be a teachable moment for Mr. Nadella if he follows three repair strategies (which I will cover in part 2 of this series)

First, let’s examine four facts about the conditions under which women work in the technology sector –

  • 83% male versus 25% female workers in technology; 29% female work force at Microsoft; only 15% percent make it to any kind of managerial role (Graph 1)

  • 17% of females hold leadership position at Microsoft but most likely, this figure further drops at senior leadership levels, since only 5.2% women in general, make it as Fortune 500 CEOs

  • Female computer science and engineering majors earn 77- 88 percent of their male colleagues salary one year after graduating, furthering widening during employment

  • For the rare racial and ethnically diverse women in technology, the pay gap is more stark: African-American women earn 69 percent and Latinas earn 58 percent of their male colleagues

Ladies, this is what this means: no matter who you are, a judge, a cardiologist or a professor, you will always make far less than your male colleagues of similar age, race, education, and who puts in the same hours on the job as you. And one would think that as you accumulate more expertise, competence and experience, you could earn more. But no, this pay-gap is counterintuitive, it widens as you age. No matter what skills you learn or what degrees you earn, at work the biggest unsurpassable barrier isn’t your competence but your gender.

What the wide and unyielding pay-gap doesn’t reveal is this: the standard differential practices at work women experience daily: longer durations to get a promotion or an equity partner; size of their bonus or merit pay; their performance is evaluated and competence judged by supervisors; and, how their professional identity can be deemed optional and secondary. This wide pay-gap also doesn’t reveal the absence of softer interpersonal skills - encouragement, inclusion, and access to resources – are as important as financial ones in nurturing competence, accomplishment, and satisfaction.

The thinking code manifest in the pay-gap is that women are lesser than men, in their intellectual abilities, talents, and interests; the thinking code drives pervasive bias behaviors and shapes who will succeed in the work-place.

So, Hang in There in a system creating inequity for you isn’t the best advice.

This is why Nadella’s thinking is problematic. But that’s not the only reason why…In The Satya Nadella Thinking Code: Three Damaging Effects, and Three Ways to Cure Them (part 2 of the three-part series), I’ll describe how the Nadella Code can damage an organization, and what he might do to overcome that damage.

I look forward to reading your replies on this topic.

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