Confronting Today’s Gender Inequality

Sometimes you have to wonder how business executives who rise to the top of their field can break the dumb-o-meter. The most recent poster child (man!) is Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. In case you somehow missed it, he recently stated at an industry event in Phoenix that women should think twice about requesting a pay raise.

“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. Nadella added that not asking for a raise leads to “good karma” and that a boss would realize the woman was a good worker and trust her with more responsibility.

Nadella was promptly lambasted for these comments—and for good reason. They harken back to a time when inequality ruled, sexism prevailed and women were generally viewed as subservient.

Wait. That’s now!

A comprehensive study recently conducted by Infogroup Targeting Solutions (ITS) found that only 14 percent of companies have a female CEO. In addition, ITS reports that women make up only 20 percent of the C-suite but fill 55 percent of administrative jobs.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that women get paid only 81 percent of what their male counterparts earn.

Although it’s clear that differences aren’t always attributable to gender and wage discrimination—many women work in different jobs and different industries than men by design rather than by accident—it also doesn’t take a data scientist to connect the dots on Nadella’s thinking. Only 17.1 percent of Microsoft tech sector employees are women, and the overall number stands at only 29 percent, according to … Microsoft.

The upshot? Corporate America—and IT departments—must begin to grapple with these issues in a meaningful way. Microsoft and Google are now releasing gender and racial data about their workforces. That’s a good start.

Moreover, Google has donated upward of $40 million to organizations promoting computer science for women. Unfortunately, women currently earn only about 18 percent of computer science degrees in the United States.

The last statistic is a shame. In today’s world, diversity—including the employment of minorities—is critically important on a number of levels, including the ability to tap into fresh and different thinking that reflects overarching societal trends and buying patterns.

If any good comes from Nadella’s comments it’s that it has drawn greater attention to a problem that’s as difficult to get rid of as a tough computer virus.