Alumna Responds to Microsoft CEO’s Comments about Women Asking for a Raise

October 23, 2014
graphic showing woman on small pile of money, man on large pile

When Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told attendees at this month’s Grace Hopper conference that they should not ask for a raise, but trust “faith” and “karma” to reward them appropriately, he caused an immediate stir. Manisha Thakor ’92 suggests, instead of taking offense at Nadella’s remarks, we should all be thanking him.

“In the span of a week he has done more to put the issue of pay inequality under the national spotlight than anyone in recent memory,” Thakor writes in an expert leadership column for the Wall Street Journal. Thakor, who is founder and CEO of Santa Fe, N.M.–based MoneyZen Wealth Management, LLC, is frequently quoted on topics relating to personal finance (she also spoke with Forbes earlier this month about saving for retirement in your 20s).

In her Wall Street Journal piece, Thakor presented a compelling example of fictional tech employees, a man and woman, who entered the workforce at different pay rates (the woman making 77 cents for every dollar the man was earning). The woman takes 11 years out of the paid workforce to care for family, a number that reflects an average for women, but otherwise the example assumes the same conditions for both parties (no raises, each of the fictional employees saves for retirement at the same rate and earns the same return on their investments, then retires at 70). Fast forward to retirement, and the impact on savings, Thakor says, is “dramatic.”

“With women representing an increasing portion of household breadwinners and co-breadwinners, pay equality is not just a woman’s problem,” Thakor writes. “It’s ultimately everyone’s problem. Does anyone truly want their mother, daughter, sister, wife, niece, aunt, and female friends to end up facing severe financial headwinds because they were afraid to speak up in the workplace and ask to be paid fairly?”

Following his gaffe at the conference, Nadella apologized, then released a company-wide memo outlining plans for increased diversity and inclusion throughout Microsoft. The memo also pledged a commitment to both equal pay for equal work and equal access to equal work. If he follows through on these commitments, Thakor suggests that Nadella is in “a unique position to reinvent Microsoft and corporate America as investors in women.”

Read the full story, “The Long-Term Price of the Gender Pay Gap,” on the Wall Street Journal’s blog “The Experts.”