Satya Nadella is a very visible technology industry leader who made a totally wrong and awful comment about women asking for wage increases .
Over the last couple of days there has been a storm in social media crying for his head . Shortly after the gaffe – he admitted publicly that he was wrong , and that women should just ask for a raise of they need it .
In my mind – that was the right first step in righting a wrong . But clearly I am in the minority in thinking so . Many people I admire and respect – like industry analysts and CXOs think saying “sorry” does not count . Some believe he should be fired . Some others don’t exactly say what they actually want him to do – except that something beyond saying “sorry” is needed .
I don’t think he should be fired at all . All leaders – all humans – make mistakes . The honorable thing to do is to admit openly when they are wrong , and do something to fix the problem and trying hard not to make the same mistake again .
In this case – he did say sorry and he agreed that women who feel they need a raise should just ask . Now it is up to Microsoft women employees to ask him for raises when they feel they deserve it and for him to give it in deserving cases . Not just women – any minority , or even any employee – should enjoy that at their place of work . Bosses should ALWAYS encourage employees to speak up .
Microsoft diversity numbers look like pretty much every other big company – gender/ethnic and all other kinds of equality still remain elusive . So it is not just Satya -every leader should be held accountable to making this right .
Also I wonder if this is a problem with male leaders alone . There are a minority of F100 companies like IBM, HP, Pepsi etc where CEOs are female – are their diversity situation much better ? If not these women leaders should be held to the same high standards too I would think .
A big problem with the fight against inequality is the lack of unity amongst Minorities . Women are a minority – physically challenged folks are a minority , Hispanics and blacks are Minorities and so on . They all fight for their right to be treated as equals – but only for themselves . Why not join forces and make the collective voices heard ?
( Example – It always has amused me when some Indians who have gained US citizenship make fun of the folks coming after them in the immigration queue on an H1B . )
It was interesting that no peer CEO of Satya defended him nor criticized him in public . And as far as I could see on social media – they were not asked for their take by the journalists and bloggers either .
The current rhetoric is mostly against Satya, not the underlying problem of inequality . Are we outraged because he sounded honest but not politically correct ?
What exactly is the priority here ? This is a country that had a president who falsely went to war claiming weapons of mass destruction , and another who lied under oath after marital indiscretion. Both seem to be popular till today , though their actions failed entire populations . Neither one even remotely made a meaningful apology but were politically correct . Even they were forgiven . What Satya did was wrong – but not as terrible as what two presidents did . If we can forgive the presidents of USA , I would think we can give a second chance for a CEO too.
I can’t speak for Satya at all – but I have a hypothesis on what made him say the awful thing he did . He is a young CEO who had a fast track career . He probably never had to ask for raise in his career . He might have assumed – wrongly – that his own experience ( or Karma ) is applicable to women employees too . Hopefully we will learn more with time .
What I would like to see happen positively out of this episode is two things
1. the world holding all leaders – at all levels – accountable to principles of equality , rather than unleashing fury on just one CEO .
2. Women – and anyone else who feels like they deserve a raise – being encouraged to speak up , and their leaders acting on it constructively
PS : Just saw the first hand commentary of the lady who interviewed Mr Nadella . Even she is surprised at the twitter fire storm