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Satya Nadella returns to Grace Hopper conference, this time just to listen and learn

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has done a remarkable job of shepherding the technology giant through a massive strategic transformation. For the most part, Nadella’s performance has been well-received, with his strategic decisions and vision being lauded as bold and innovative. Like all CEOs, he’s been guilty of some marketing speak on occasion, but sometimes a leader needs to provide a glimpse of a company’s strategy without giving away the farm.

No CEO of a multibillion dollar, multinational corporation can avoid all controversy, and Nadella is no different. Last year, he tripped over himself at the Grace Hopper conference, when he made a statement regarding diversity in the workplace that left some people feeling a bit underwhelmed. As we reported following last year’s event, Nadella handed out some advice to women that wasn’t taken as terribly constructive.

“It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise,” said Nadella to Maria Klawe, who is president of Harvey Mudd College as well as a member of Microsoft’s board. “That might be one of the initial ‘super powers,’ that quite frankly, women who don’t ask for a raise have,” he added. “It’s good karma. It will come back.”

Nadella walked back his statement via email, where he provided some clarification of his thoughts on women in the workplace:

All – Today I was interviewed on stage by Maria Klawe at the Grace Hopper Conference – I encourage you to watch the video. It was great to spend time with so many women passionate about technology. I was honored to be a part of it and I left the conference energized and inspired.

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. Without a doubt I wholeheartedly support programs at Microsoft and in the industry that bring more women into technology and close the pay gap. 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.

I said I was looking forward to the Grace Hopper Conference to learn, and I certainly learned a valuable lesson. I look forward to speaking with you at our monthly Q&A next week and am happy to answer any question you have.

Satya

The controversy has faded into the background, but Nadella’s statement left a bit of a stain on an otherwise largely unblemished record. According to GeekWire, Nadella has chosen to be a spectator at this year’s Grace Hopper event. We don’t know if he was invited to speak again and turned down the offer, or if the slate was already full, but in any event we shouldn’t have any new controversies this time around.

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Is it a good idea for Nadella to stay in the bleachers at this year's event?