09 Feb Why I’m confident that the tech industry is fixing its diversity quagmire
When Microsoft’s chief executive, Satya Nadella, commented that women should have faith in the system to give them the raises they deserve, he knew he had misspoken. His words at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, last October, caused immediate outrage. In an e-mail exchange with me after he left the stage, he wrote: “I just gave a wrong and terrible answer to the question today. I blew the context completely and gave general career advice. I take equal pay for equal work — and an environment where women are comfortable to ask for a raise — as a given. The real lesson for me is that as a leader I need to talk/act on this issue vs. general words of encouragement and advice.”
This blunder was deeply transformative for Nadella. It caused him to become acutely aware of the depth of the problem and left him determined to make Microsoft a role model for the tech industry. Gwen Houston, Microsoft’s general manager of global diversity and inclusion, says “It’s been impressive to watch how Satya seized this as a huge learning opportunity. He looked within and broadened the conversation to learn from others and help others learn.”
Houston says that, since the Grace Hopper event, Microsoft has expanded training for all employees to foster an inclusive culture and to ensure accountability. Microsoft base pay among all genders and races in the United States varies by less than 0.5 percent, but monitoring systems have been established to ensure that no salary discrepancies arise. Microsoft has mandated training on issues such as unconscious bias, has focused hard on recruiting more-diverse talent at all levels, and is working on building the availability of talent at the high-school level. Nadella himself has been asking tough questions and reviewing qualitative scorecard data. A question he asks repeatedly is: “What should we do better?” He has given his leadership team several measurable diversity goals and mandated that there must be not only equal pay for equal work but also equal opportunity for equal work.