By Jonathan Davies

The Microsoft chief executive Natya Sadella has been heavily criticised after saying that women shouldn't ask for a pay rise.

The Microsoft boss said that women don't need to ask for a pay rise, and should instead trust 'the system' to deliver equal pay.

Nadella was speaking at an event for women in the tech industry in Phoenix when he made the comments. He was asked to give advice to women who are perhaps uncomfortable asking for a raise.

He said: “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."

He explained that not asking for raise was “good karma”, which would help the bosses realise that the employees can be trusted and deserve a raise.

Maria Klawe, the president of Harvey Mudd College and a Microsoft director, was interviewing Satya Nadella and immediately disagreed with his comments, prompting cheers and applause from the audience.

Nadella soon backtracked on what he'd said, describing it as "inarticulate" on Twitter. He later wrote to all Microsoft employees saying he "answered the question completely wrong".

"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," Nadella said.

That brought about greater scrutiny on the number of women employed by Microsoft. According to figures released by the tech giant earlier this month, 29% of its workforce is female. But that figures drops to 17% in management roles. The figures are similar to other big tech companies, however.

Marianna Fotaki, Professor of Business Ethics at Warwick Business School, researches gender ethics in organisations. She said: “There are many reasons and explanations why men continue to be paid more than women are paid over their lifetimes. Karma, denoting reward for one’s deeds in their previous lives, sounds too absurd to be seriously considered by anybody had it not touched upon a real and important issue: that is, why women continue to be paid less than men and why is this gender gap growing, especially in highly paid professions?

“New research by the American Association of University Women shows that many widely held assumptions about the pay gap are inaccurate. For instance, gender gap exists among women without children and that it grows with age. This means that women typically earn about 90 per cent of what men are paid until they are about 35 years-old and after that median earnings for women are typically 75—80 per cent of what men are paid."

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