Microsoft’s CEO Apologizes Again For Comments On Women, Promises New Diversity Efforts

Microsoft is working to repair its public image and change course by addressing the damage that CEO Satya Nadella caused last week by saying that women should, perhaps, not ask for raises. His comments immediately became an international high water mark for tone-deafness — and being flat wrong — and he continues to apologize and promise change.

The executive quickly followed his initial comments with a tweet, and later a formal retraction. Today Nadella went further in an internal memo that included a new apology and a set of notes explaining what he intends to implement at Microsoft regarding diversity.

The full memo, which GeekWire published (TechCrunch confirmed with Microsoft that the text is real), is worth reading. The key excerpts follow:

There are three areas in which we can and will make progress — starting immediately.

First, we need to continue to focus on equal pay for equal work and equal opportunity for equal work. Many employees have asked if they are paid on par with others at the company. Here’s what HR confirmed for me: Although it fluctuates by a bit each year, the overall differences in base pay among genders and races (when we consider level and job title) is consistently within 0.5% at Microsoft. For example, last year women in the US at the same title and level earned 99.7% of what men earned at the same title and level. In any given year, any particular group may be slightly above or slightly below 100 percent. But this obscures an important point: We must ensure not only that everyone receives equal pay for equal work, but that they have the opportunity to do equal work.

Second, we need to recruit more diverse talent to Microsoft at all levels of the company. As you saw in the numbers we recently released, we have work to do at Microsoft and across the industry. These numbers are not good enough, especially in a world in which our customers are diverse and global. To achieve this goal — and especially in engineering — we will have to expand the diversity of our workforce at the senior ranks and re-double our efforts in college and other hiring. Each member of the SLT will be goaled to increase Diversity and Inclusion.

Third, we need to expand training for all employees on how to foster an inclusive culture. Although we already offer training and development in these areas, we need to ensure the right level of accountability for modeling inclusive behaviors in all our work and actions. We all need to think about how Connects are written, performance feedback is delivered, new hires are selected, how promotion and pay decisions are made, etc. We need to focus on both the conscious and unconscious thinking that affects all these things, and mandatory training on D&I is a great place to start.

The data regarding employee pay in the United States is encouraging, but hardly complete. Microsoft is a multinational outfit, with employees spread around the globe. Having near-perfect salary equity in its home market is good, but if those figures are different in other regions, the company has work ahead of it.

It would be good of Microsoft to release more detailed statistics on a per-country basis. That data would help women around the world better understand the labor dynamics in their countries. And it would help the technology industry better understand where pay gaps based on gender are wider — that could help people ask for the raises that they deserve.

Tasking the company’s senior leadership team with increasing diversity is a fine idea in principle, but we’ll have to see. This is also a push that will take time to bear out, meaning that it will be all but impossible to determine its effectiveness in the near-term. Training is similar in that it might only have impacts later on. However, it is still a good idea.