[This story ran in the print edition of the The Seattle Times Oct. 12, 2014.]
When Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said last week that women needn’t ask for raises but should trust in the system to get the pay they deserved, a firestorm of reaction ignited around the issues of unequal pay for men and women and the gender gap in the technology industry.
Nadella, asked at a conference of women in computing what his advice would be for women uncomfortable about asking for a raise, said in part: “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.”
For some, Nadella’s comments seemed emblematic of biases or blind spots in attitudes and in company cultures — some subtle, some blatant — that can make it hard for women to thrive in the tech industry.
“I think one of the things that make it difficult for women in the industry is not men being malicious in any way; it’s just that they have different points of view,” said Tina Podlodowski, a former Microsoft executive who’s now an independent consultant on technology issues.
Until more women’s points of view are reflected in management, she said, “it’s going to be difficult for women to get positions in tech that they are qualified for and deserve.”
No one knows for certain why the drop in women in tech has been so steep and the gender gap ongoing, though there are theories.
“I think that is the big question that the entire technology industry is trying to figure out and trying to solve,” said Susan Harker, vice president of global talent acquisition at Amazon.com.
More difficult to pin down and change are issues of company culture and attitudes toward women in the tech world — factors that play a big role in whether women stay in the industry.
The No. 1 thing tech companies can do “is to create a welcoming and supportive environment within the company for female engineers,” said Ed Lazowska, professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington. “All of the outreach programs in the world for K-12 and college students, all of the advertising campaigns, all of the articles in the press, all of these together will not make nearly as big a difference as a visibly supportive corporate culture would make.”
[Continue reading the story here.]