Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella issued an apology Thursday evening to all company employees following the backlash he received for comments he made about women asking for raises.
Nadella was a featured speaker at a Phoenix conference for thousands of women professionals in computing when he was asked what advice he would give to women who aren't comfortable asking for a raise.
"It's not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that this system will actually give you the right raises as you go along," Nadella told the moderator, Maria Klawe, in front of the gathering of women engineers. Nadella went on to say that women who don't ask for raises have an "additional superpower … because that's good karma, it'll come back."
Klawe, a computer scientist and Microsoft board member, immediately shot back, "This is one of the very few things I disagree with you on," and was applauded by audience members.
The CEO's response received blowback almost immediately. "Does this mean Microsoft is developing karma currency to pay your bills?" Twitter user Jame Ervin wrote. "Waiting for karma to solve wage gap."
"I sort of doubt that Satya Nadella got to be CEO by trusting in karmic 'super powers,'" Twitter user Scott Starr wrote.
Shortly after his speech, Nadella tweeted that he "was inarticulate" about how women should ask for raises. He added that the tech industry needs to close the gender pay gap "so a raise is not needed because of bias."
Thursday night, he issued a formal apology via email: "I answered that question completely wrong," Nadella wrote. "I believe men and women should get equal pay for equal work. And when it comes to career advice on getting a raise when you think it's deserved, Maria's advice was the right advice. If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask."