Karma and Salary Negotiations


Do you ever do that thing where you surround yourself with people who think just like you, and you sit around talking and reflecting back to each other what you all already thought? Or maybe you only follow certain news outlets that share your views, and run out to buy the latest books that mirror your opinions and biases? Or maybe you write a weekly blog that follows roughly the same theme or focus every week?

I think we all do some of that.

I have been thinking about, and talking about, and reading about, and writing about the gender wage gap quite a bit lately. I will even be teaching about it in the next couple of weeks now that my financial classes for girls and young women have started up again. I have also been looking more and more at STEM jobs, and the lack of women in them, especially Technology. I’ve written and researched and read about the barriers for women in Tech, and celebrated the gains with leading women in certain Tech positions.

But I’ve been doing research long enough to know that there is a certain amount of risk that sometimes we find what we want to find, and I like to step back and check my biases and my preconceived notions, and open up what might be becoming a one-track mind.

And then, at a conference celebrating women and computing, the CEO of Microsoft makes a speech. And it confirms my worst fears — and mirrors many of my one-track opinions — about the US gender wage gap.

Here’s what Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said about women negotiating salary increases at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference:

“.…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 long.  And that I think might be one of the additional “superpowers,” that quite frankly, women who don’t ask for a raise have. Because that’s good karma.”

But data shows that many women don’t negotiate salaries, and also that women earn on average 78% of what men earn, and that the system, as it currently exists, is not working to give the “right” raises. And not surprisingly, Nadella’s comments caused an uproar in many circles, and since then Nadella has called his own comments “inarticulate” and tweeted that “Our industry must close gender pay gap so a raise is not needed because of a bias.”

Here’s why the original comments confirm my worst fears about the gender wage gap:

  • Nadella is a CEO of a major company, and he sets the tone for the culture of the company. If he thinks women should not negotiate higher salaries, that opinion may be echoed throughout the company.
  • Microsoft is a major Tech company, and Tech has a dearth of women, and many believe, a culture hostile to women. These comments seem to support that view.
  • Nadella, as the CEO of a major, Tech company, seems shockingly out of touch with the gender gap and issues facing women, including women’s failure to negotiate salaries and their resulting lower wages.

It’s of course particularly startling that he made these comments in public, at a conference celebrating women in computing. That was a colossal disconnect.

So here’s my final take on the issue, at least for this go-round. While the government attempts to legislate pay equality, it is clear from income data that we still have a lot more work to do in this area. Recent comments from the CEO of Microsoft echo a bias against women negotiating salaries that can keep the pay gap alive and well.

So where does that leave women who want to earn what they are worth, and create financial success and independence for themselves?

Women need to learn, starting at a young age, that they have a financial responsibility to themselves. Some CEOs are fair, some companies support a culture of equal pay for equal work, and the US government continues to work slowly, one step at a time, on the gender wage gap issue. But at the end of the day, women need to have a strong enough financial understanding and skill set to understand what their work is worth, and how to negotiate to earn the salary they deserve — whatever the context, whatever their karma.



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