Monday, December 7, 2015

Microsoft CEO's Controversial Comments about Women's Pay (2014)

Microsoft company logo
In 2014, Satya Nadella took over the position of CEO of Microsoft from Steve Ballmer. In early October, 2014, Microsoft published its diversity statistics and launched a diversity inclusion website. Not more than a few weeks later Satya Nadella was being interviewed by Maria Klawe, Harvey Mudd College President and Microsoft board member, at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference. Klawe asked Nadella what advice he would give to women who are not comfortable asking for raises. His response was that women should not explicitly ask for raises, they should rely on good karma to bring them their raises.
After hearing the controversial comment made by Nadella, one graduate student, Amrita Mazumdar, said "Satya Nadella’s comments about wages are very reflective of the tech industry’s self-perception as a ‘meritocracy’" (Soper). The idea of basing progress on talent and ability is not such a bad idea, however, Nadella is saying that even though a woman might have exceptional talent and ability, she should not make an effort to confront an executive about a raise.

Satya Nadella, CEO of Micrsoft who
commented on women asking for raises

There are many stakeholders affected by this controversy. One group of stakeholders are the female employees of Microsoft and other companies in the technology industry. They are at a disadvantage if they are not treated as equals with men. They become less confident and Nadella’s remarks emphasize the reasons women are not confident in the tech industry. The Microsoft Company is also a stakeholder. If women chose not to work at Microsoft because of discrimination, then the company is losing a lot of talent and skill. This is because having a more diverse team will enhance the problem-solving and innovation departments within the company. Another stakeholder is the customers. Studies show that more women than men are purchasing technology and using websites. Customers may be influenced to not buy Microsoft products because of discrimination against women. Lastly, the stockholders are also stakeholders. However, they would benefit from this controversy because if fewer women are receiving raises, or women are receiving raises less frequently than men, then the stockholders will take home more money.

An individualistic view of ethics says that there is only on responsibility of business. That responsibility is use its resources to maximize profit, without deception or fraud. An individualist would say that this controversy is ethical. Satya Nadella is not breaking any laws by advising women not to ask for raises. He is simply stating his opinion. The result of the company not giving out raises very frequently will maximize profits. However, if Satya Nadella were to be found discriminating against women in his company, this case would be unethical. It is not ethical to maximize profits if you are breaking the law to do so.

Utilitarianism is the theory that “Happiness must be understood in terms of pleasure and the absence of pain; unhappiness is understood as pain, or the deprivation of pleasure” (DesJardins, 30). Based on this theory this case is not ethical. Satya Nadella was not thinking about the happiness of his employees when he said they should not ask for raises. This theory also states, “There should be no difference, morally-speaking, between my happiness and yours,” (Salazar, slide 6). Nadella showed that there is a difference between his happiness and the happiness of his employees. He would not have kept them from asking for raises if he felt there was no difference between each of their happiness.
A group of Microsoft workers, a photo
promoting diversity in the workplace

The theory of Kantianism has four main principles. Those principles are to act rationally, allow and help people make rational decisions, respect people and their individual needs and differences, and be motivated by good will. Based on this ethical theory, this case is not ethical. It was not a rational decision for Satya Nadella to tell women not to ask for raises. Nadella would not expect to be told that he needed to wait for fate to bring him his raises, so it is not rational for him to expect that of his employees. In Kantianism, each person has a fundamental duty to treat others with respect and as equals. Satya Nadella is not treating his female employees as equals to his male employees, therefore he is being unethical.

Virtue Theory
The Virtue Theory of ethics is composed of four business virtues. Those virtues are courage, honesty, temperance, and justice. These are the character traits that will lead us to a life of happiness. Satya Nadella was not acting ethically based off of this theory. Satya Nadella lacked the courage to stand up for equal rights for the women in the tech industry. This also does not show much honesty on Nadella's part. The fact that they are expected not to ask for raises should be discussed before an employee is hired. Nadella also did not restrain himself from allowing his own opinion to make him biased and he did not act with fairness toward the women in the tech industry.

Justified Ethical Evaluation
Although I have no experience in the technology industry, I believe that Satya Nadella's comments were unethical for any type of work environment. In an age where gender equality is extremely important, it was ignorant for Satya Nadella to tell women that they should not be asking their companies for a raise. It is unfair to say women should not be asking for raises, but there are no restrictions for men. Women could easily accomplish more than their male co-workers and they should be appropriately recognized for it just as their male co-workers would be. It is important to recognize female accomplishments in an industry that has a male majority workforce. Satya Nadella should be setting an example for other companies in the tech industry and encouraging women to speak up when they have succeeded at something. This will result in a work environment that allows everyone to feel equal.

"About Microsoft." About Microsoft. Microsoft Corporation, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.

"Anti-discrimination Laws." United States Department of Labor. U.S. Department of Labor, Aug. 1999. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.

"Come as You Are. Do What You Love." The Business of Inclusion. Microsoft Corporation, n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.

Foley, Mary Jo. "Microsoft Releases Diversity Stats, Says 'much Work' Still to Be Done - CNET." CNET. N.p., 3 Oct. 2014. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.

"Grace Hopper | About." Grace Hopper. Anita Borg Institute, n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.

Guynn, Jessica. "Diversity Takes Center Stage at Microsoft Annual Meeting." USA Today. N.p., 3 Dec. 2014. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.

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