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Microsoft CEO’s remarks: Oops, did I say that out loud?

October 12, 2014





Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, abruptly backtracked after “suggesting women in tech shouldn’t ask for raises but instead rely on ‘good karma.’ He now wants to lead the tech industry in gender equality” (Kerr, 2014, para. 1).

Satya: you are definitely the wrong guy for the job. 

I can only imagine the justified panic within Microsoft’s organization. Nadella’s telling remarks have likely caused Microsoft’s social capital to plummet. My attitude shifted from shock to amusement as I imagined the CEO’s inner dialogue:

Oops…did I say that out loud?

Oh sorry (because I got caught…).

Drat, now they know how I really feel…“.

By the way, what the heck does “karma” have to do with proactive self-promotion within the context of a professional career? If any professional sits back and waits for the system to reward their hard work without a little self-advocacy, they will be disappointed. This is a matter of smart business practices. I can look back on my career and cite more than a few times when the system didn’t automatically reward my contributions. In these cases, the choices were to self-advocate or suffer in silence, waiting…for…whatever…futility

Nadella’s remarks highlight a very real problem that hasn’t discouraged me much. In fact, I have enjoyed that game of gender-biased under-estimation/dismissal as it ultimately works to my advantage.

[Heh. Yep. That’s right. Keep that attitude going…what you don’t know is that your pathetic biases only make me stronger. When I’m done here, I will have succeeded under challenging conditions and you will remain the same sad excuse for a leader. Enjoy your glorified existence while it lasts. And no, I don’t care about your ginormous compensation package because I’m more focused on personal and professional self-respect and fulfillment.]


With all of the truly wonderful initiatives to attract and retain women in STEM, the reality is that people such as Nadella are not uncommon. Call it whatever you want, I call it a reality check. These attitudes exist and women must be prepared to handle them. It’s up to us to develop communication skills to professionally handle boneheads. STEM women must unplug a great deal of gender-biased, social programming to learn how to cope in realistic and productive ways. When we don’t learn such things, failures occur.

It is ridiculous to believe that Nadella could now become a sincere advocate for women in tech. What happened was that we got to truly understand Nadella’s core beliefs in a surprising venue: the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. A recent article on the event site was entitled  “Why We’re Inviting Men to the Table at GHC 2014“.

Despite Nadella’s “oops”, the juxtaposition was not a failure! In fact, GHC’s inclusive intent and Nadella’s “mistake” was quite fortuitous because we can see the problem in a very clear, real-world context.

He said what he said. Now we know where we stand. I’m definitely not a feminist activist but I am most certainly a realist: some people think this way. Fortunately, I’ve encountered far more professionals than boneheads – but they’re out there.

Microsoft would be well-advised to avoid a huge effort to convince [those of us who know better] that their CEO has somehow exchanged a lifetime of experiences and core beliefs for new, more politically correct beliefs. To do so would be to insult the many, very intelligent women in STEM, as well as many men who would never even think to utter such stupid remarks.

Such efforts would also be tantamount to a very poorly executed Jedi mind trick. Skip it and learn something. Please.

Jedi mind tricks feeble

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