Today is International Women's Day, and Microsoft and many other tech companies are stepping up with different initiatives to celebrate equality and inclusivity. This year, the Bing team is inviting users to share an inspirational greeting card with the inspirational women in your life. Additionally, the Skype team profiled Barbara Ondrisek, an engineer who created one of the very first bots for Microsoft's Skype messaging app.
But Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also stepped up to share a very personal story on LinkedIn. In the lengthy blog post titled "Enduring lessons from my mother," the Indian American exec recalled how his mother, a college professor in India, used to bring a very young Nadella to her college classes during the 1970's. As you can probably imagine, the practice was very unusual in the country during that period, and it definitely helped Nadella understand the various challenges that working mothers are facing today.
Even now, I know I can understand only to a certain point. Although we shared many things — our sense of humor and mindfulness of practicing things that nourish your soul as much as your intellect — I know that the barriers and challenges she faced as a working mother were far, far greater than mine.
This is one reason celebrating International Women’s Day is so important — to recognize and honor the tremendous value women around the world provide every single day, but also to help remove barriers for the next generation.
Nadella, who recently shared that he wants Microsoft to "look like everyone and every organization in the world," is committed to find solutions to close the gender gap in STEM-focused industries. "This year, we are challenging girls to stay in STEM fields so they are empowered to solve the big problems they care about most," he explained. "With the right investments of time, resources and energy, there is no telling what can be achieved."
It's worth reminding that Satya made headlines two years ago when he gave controversial advice to women asking for a raise. However, he quickly walked back his statement to explain that "if you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask." Following this "learning moment" for the CEO, Microsoft definitely ended the controversy by requiring all its employees to take diversity training.
Today, Nadella's humbling and inspiring testimony shows that the CEO is well aware that his unique upbringing contributed to make him the man and executive he is today. "I’m no longer a child playing at my mother’s feet, but I will always be a man looking up to a woman — my mother, my wife, my daughters, my Microsoft colleagues and so many others — for the lessons in life that define who I am as a father, husband and CEO," shared Nadella. The blog post was warmly received, with over 300 comments at the time of our writing.