Talk About Bad Karma….
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella unleashed a firestorm of well-deserved criticism last Thursday when he lauded women who don’t ask for raises saying “that’s good karma” and calling them “the kind of person that I want to trust”
Why Nadella was wrong no matter how you look at it….
…From a business perspective.
The evidence mounts. Companies who develop and retain talented women are companies that prosper, grow, succeed, attract shareholders and outdo the competition. However, talented women are not likely to stick around for Karma to get them to the income level their male colleagues have enjoyed for years. They are not likely to wait for Karma to even the odds of a 50 percent+ workforce accounting for 14% of top management. CEO’s are not well served to “trust” that their talented women will hold out for Karma to kick in to advance their careers.
….In his message to women.
Here’s a mover and a shaker with a golden opportunity to make the tech sector (which struggles mightily to attract and retain female talent) more appealing to women. Instead of his Karma comment, he could have been talking about the right ways to ask for a raise…how to focus on contributions to the organization…how to neither be too shy nor too aggressive when asking for a raise. He could have been a voice of power, speaking with authority and empathy. Instead, he stoked the fires of exclusion.
Here’s the worst part
Nadella is not alone. The underlying beliefs behind his comments are a perfect example of what we have come to call second generation gender bias. Can anyone imagine a corporate leader saying to a male audience: trust Karma to get you the raise you deserve? It’s a perfect example of how unconscious attitudes about gender cause different expectations for men and women.
Second generation gender bias often goes unnoticed by both the managers and the women who are its recipients. Managers exclude women in subtle ways. They look at women differently without even realizing it, pigeon holing them in old-school categories. For example, women are perceived to be too soft, or too tough. They’re not ready to move up, or they’re too ambitious. They’ll leave to raise a family. They’re not decisive. The list goes on and on.
Nadella’s comment is possibly a blessing in disguise
The fact that a CEO of one of the world’s largest and most powerful companies would reveal some of his gender-based beliefs; acknowledge his error and then retract his statement can be an important turning point. It can shine a light on how vital it is for women and men to realize that despite how far women have come, prejudice continues its strangle hold on their advancement. Unless corporate cultures change, starting at the top, both women and their organizations will be robbed of the advantages of diverse top-management teams.
So did Nadella inadvertently do corporate America and its female talent a favor? Did he help bring “second gender generation bias” out of the closet? Let’s hope so.
Now that would be Good Karma.
Dr. Rosina L. Racioppi
President & CEO
WOMEN Unlimited, Inc.