Last Thursday, like a scene out of a misogynistic episode of the Twilight Zone, Microsoft (ticker MSFT) CEO Satya Nadella told the audience at, of all places, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference in Phoenix, Arizona the following:
“It’s not 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 a raise have. Because that’s good karma.”
Bud Fox News had dispatched female reporter Silence Bellows, equipped with all her superpowers, to cover the conference. When she approached Nadella after his remarks, he refused to even acknowledge her question, gave her a lecherous version of elevator eyes, and turned away. He was then overheard screaming the following at a female underling, who was dressed in a skin tight Wonder Woman outfit and towering high heeled boots: “I told you that I will not speak to female reporters! They’re unreliable, untrustworthy and unprofessional!”
Our female correspondent could then only meekly listen in as Nadella took questions from a male reporter at a competing news organization. When pressed to clarify his earlier remarks, the CEO said, “You’re twisting my words a bit. I meant nothing negative by what I said. Look, some of my best friends are women. The woman who cuts my hair is a good friend, so is the florist in my town, and the nurse in my doctor’s office.” When asked whether his doctor was also a woman, Nadella responded: “Of course not. That would be ridiculous. You’ll have to excuse me, but my obsequious assistant is telling me that it’s time for her to give me a back rub.”
The Grace Hopper Conference is annually sponsored by The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, the latter a nonprofit organization founded by computer scientist Anita Borg. The institute’s primary aim is to recruit, retain, and advance women in technology. Grace Hopper was a US Navy rear admiral and computer pioneer.
In attempt to reverse the obvious public relations damage that Nadella had done, he tweeted an apology later that afternoon: “Was inarticulate re how women should ask for raise. Our industry must close gender pay gap so a raise is not needed because of a bias”
Charles Faux Pas, professor of Rhetoric and Communications studies at Denver Automotive and Diesel College, said of Nadella’s twitter mea culpa: “Not quite enough. This is like taking an aspirin for the headache brought on by an impending cerebral aneurysm.”
In a second bid at redemption, that evening Nadella issued a statement to employees, which included the following passage:
“Toward the end of the interview, Maria asked me what advice I would offer women who are not comfortable asking for pay raises. I answered that question completely wrong.”
He ended with:
“Like the superhero Daredevil when he encounters powerful sounds or odors that weaken his radar sense, I didn’t have my superpowers today. Again, I’m truly sorry for that.”
Just before midnight that same evening, Nadella was seen outside the Microsoft headquarters dressed in a cape and green tights. He was yelling at his assistant, who had changed into a cheerleading outfit.