Microsoft CEO to women: Not asking for a raise is 'good karma'

Microsoft CEO's gender gap gaffe

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has disavowed controversial comments he made at a women's tech conference, including the suggestion that women who don't ask for raises will receive "good karma."

"Was inarticulate [on] how women should ask for raise," Nadella said on Twitter following his appearance at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference in Phoenix, Arizona. "Our industry must close gender pay gap so a raise is not needed because of a bias."

At the conference, Nadella implied that instead of asking for a raise, women should have faith that they will be rewarded over the long arc of a career.

"That ... might be one of the additional superpowers, that quite frankly, women who don't ask for raises have," he said. "Because that's good karma. It will come back."

Related: Microsoft CEO skewered on Twitter over 'karma' comment

Women make nearly $11,000 less each year than men, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's latest report on income and poverty. That translates to women making 78 cents to every dollar made by men. For the last several years it has been 77 cents on the dollar, making this year's figures a tiny improvement.

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In an email sent to Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30) employees and published on the company's website, the CEO said he answered the question "completely wrong."

"I believe men and women should get equal pay for equal work," Nadella wrote. "If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask."

Related: Satya Nadella outblunders Steve Ballmer

Nadella, a 22-year veteran at Microsoft, was elevated to the CEO position in February. He had been overseeing various aspects of the company's corporate software business since 1992.

His comments drew intense criticism on social media. The comments were also challenged by Maria Klawe, the session's moderator, who is also the president of Harvey Mudd College and a board member at Microsoft.

Klawe said she had lost tens of thousands of dollars by not being more assertive in salary negotiations.

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"Do your homework," she told the crowd. "Make sure you actually know what a reasonable salary is when you're offered a job. Do not be as stupid as I was."

Microsoft recently released workplace diversity statistics showing it has a problem with gender imbalance -- particularly at the leadership level -- as much like other leading tech firms.

Microsoft's workforce is 71% male, a figure that rises to 83% for both technical and leadership roles. Those figures are roughly in line with the gender breakdown at Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Apple.

-- Jillian Eugenios and James O'Toole contributed reporting.

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