An Open Letter to Satya Nadella

Dear Satya,

Like many, I was surprised to hear that you’d remarked “It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise” at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing this week.

I was glad to see you apologize, but I think there’s something more interesting at play. Your statement signals that you trust that the system at Microsoft to provide fair, unbiased raises. Microsoft released data about workforce diversity earlier this year. As a former employee, I know you also have plenty of data to examine about if the system is giving unbiased raises.

I’d love to see Microsoft release the data for:
• Promotion velocity by gender, and by length of time at the company.
• Retention rate by gender of college hires after 1, 2, 5, 10, and 20 years.
• Salary differential (percentage) by gender by discipline by level. *
• Percentage Gold Star awards** by gender (and by discipline and level).

For each set of data I’ve mentioned, it’s equally important to do the same analysis by race, sexual orientation, trans*, and able-bodiedness.

Your statement makes me hope that this data would be positive. I hope that Microsoft could serve as an example for other companies to follow. Maybe that is the case! If so, you should be proud to share this data and help us all move forwards.

I worry that instead, your statement comes from ignorance. I worry that Microsoft isn’t analyzing or prioritizing these issues. I clearly remember my Vice President telling our group to never discuss salary with friends — “it only makes one person sad.”

Of course, it could also show systematic biases.

Even if the data isn’t great, I’d love to hear that you learned and have an action plan to resolve disparities. I might not still be at Microsoft, but many of my best friends are, and I hope the company is doing what’s best for all of them.

I think it’s unlikely this data will be shared due to legal risk. Even if you don’t share publicly, I hope you’ll acknowledge that you’re personally reviewing this data, and making sure women actually can put their faith in Microsoft.

Ellen Chisa

*If you aren’t familiar with Microsoft’s system, this is confusing. Typically, Engineering hires start at level 59. When I was there that included Program Manager, Software Development Engineering, Software Development Engineering in Test. Salaries are typically banded within a level, and every couple levels you get a new title: PMII at 61, Sr. PM at 63, Principal PM at 65, and Partner PM at 67 (and equivalent for other disciplines).

** Gold stars are “special” bonuses awarded for going above and beyond what was necessary in your role, typically by your VP. I know of four male friends who received a gold star, and no women. It might be men are more likely to share their accomplishments, but I have no way to know.