If there is any lingering doubt about the value women bring to corporate boards, skeptics should read the news last week concerning Satya Nadella. The recently appointed CEO of Microsoft, Nadella, speaking at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Phoenix, stuck his foot in his mouth. A female member of his own board challenged him.
To an audience of women in technology he actually advocated that women not ask for more money from their employers. Luckily, Dr. Maria M. Klawe, President of Harvey Mudd College and a Microsoft board member, was interviewing him. Dr. Klawe asked him for his advice to women seeking raises. His answer: "It's not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along."
In fact, as women are "going along", their male counterparts have shot up the corporate ladder, leaving them far behind.
Dr. Klawe's response that she did not agree generated a round of applause. She then explained about the negative impact on her own career of not asking about salary when offered a new position.
Dr. Klawe is one of 58 current women directors interviewed in the book The Board Game; How Smart Women Become Corporate Directors. All echoed a common theme--urging women to be more assertive in asking for what they want. Too often (women work hard--often harder than their peers), hoping to be recognized, but shy away from actively bringing that great work to the attention of supervisors and asking to be rewarded.
This "nice girl" conditioning puts them at a real disadvantage in the work place. And it's no accident that it was a woman on his board who challenged Nadella's remarks.
In subsequent news reports M. Nardella has bent over backwards to apologize. A New York Times blog said, "Mr. Nadella is not known for being tone deaf on women's issues." One has to wonder what "issues" he's able to hear.