Before we pelt social media stones on Satya Nadella …

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


Published by Vijay Vijayasankar

Son/Husband/Dad/Dog Lover/Engineer. Follow me on twitter @vijayasankarv. These blogs are all my personal views - and not in way related to my employer or past employers

6 thoughts on “Before we pelt social media stones on Satya Nadella …

  1. Sorry, I’ve got to disagree strongly on this one. Microsoft is too important of a company not to have a very strong leader. This just confirmed most of the justified concerns that the company still doesn’t have a CEO, only an executive chairman that can’t let go.


  2. While I don’t think it’s necessary for Nadella to resign, he does have to take some direct remedial action. I think if he had said in some European countries or here in S.Africa he would have been taken to court and would have to make reparations. My advice to him would be to convene a meeting of women in Microsoft to tell him what should be improved or changed.


  3. He made a mistake. If MSFT board decides to fire him, it’s not unaccounted for.
    However, I do agree he should not be fired just because of what he said, but for a rational decision.
    MSFT is a very consumer driven company, with a huge part of its revenue coming from direct end-users purchases. If the board believes him staying would be prejudicial to the company in terms of revenue, they should let him go.


    1. Well, would that logic apply to Tim Cook at AAPL too since his company’s diversity numbers are not much superior ? AAPL is way more consumer driven than MSFT.

      Firing is totally the wrong decision in this case, in my opinion.


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