In another session of the previously mentioned Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella had this rather unhelpful bit of advice for women who think they should be paid more:
It’s not really about asking for the raise but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along. And that, I think, might be one of the additional superpowers that quite frankly women who don’t ask for raises have. Because that’s good karma. It’ll come back. Because somebody’s going to know: ‘That’s the kind of person that I want to trust. That’s the kind of person that I want to really give more responsibility to.’ And in the long term efficiency, things catch up.
And I wonder — and I’m not saying that’s the only approach — I wonder whether taking the longterm[view] helps solve for what might be perceived as this uncomfortable thing of: ‘Hey, am I getting paid right, am I getting rewarded right.’ Because the reality is your best work is not followed with your best rewards. Your best work then has impact, people recognize it, and then you get the rewards. So you have to somehow think that through, I think.
Nadella has subsequently apologized, saying that he "mis-spoke."
A response I have seen retweeted a bunch of times last night and this morning comes from Brian Solis:
"I became CEO by not asking for a raise, but trusting karma and having faith in the system." - Said no CEO ever
The thing is, I bet a lot of CEOs actually would say exactly that, and that's a huge part of the problem. It's why an ostensibly smart fellow like Satya Nadella, when asked a question, spouts off with some nonsense like what is quote above.
This sort of advice ("Just do your best!" "Work hard, and you will be rewarded!") comes straight from the notion that our society in general and the business/techology worlds specifically are meritocracies. Not only does this view tend to hold that people who are successful got that way due solely to their own hard work and initiative, but conversely, that if you are not successful, it is due to some personal failing on your part.
I wrote a few days ago about unacknowledged privilege. When people don't pause and think about the factors that got them to where they are, we get answers like the one that Nadella gave. If you run a huge corporation and make a lot of money, it is easy to believe that you alone are responsible for your success.
That's not to say that people who are wealthy and successful didn't work hard, or had no part in getting to where they are. Rather, it would be refreshing to hear more acknowledgement that such accomplishments take place completely within a societal construct that is not egalitarian.