Last week, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told a predominantly female crowd at the Grace Hopper Celebration in Computing that by not asking for a raise, they would be creating good karma for themselves and eventually would be rewarded for it. This statement all at once demonstrates a bad understanding of karma, of gender inequalities in the workplace, and of how systemic change actually takes place.
First, let’s go over a basic definition of karma. Put most simply, it is a representation of an action-result pair and by itself neither good nor bad. That your actions have consequences seems pretty straightforward and one that most people will agree with. It has somehow in its immigration into the US been translated into something much more mystical, almost like luck or fortune. That probably came about as the results are not always immediate, sometimes even attributed to the actions in a previous life. In this instance though, a woman asking or not asking for a raise are both actions that will generate results. One, is more likely to generate the result of the woman in question getting a raise (maybe) and the latter action perpetuating the status quo.
Since the status quo in the US is that women currently make 78% that of men for the same work, I think (as do most people in the US and Mr Nadella himself) that women being paid on par is the result we want. So then is the best course of action for every woman to go and ask for a raise right away? No, let’s not be so hasty. Did you know that both male and female negotiators are 4 times as likely to lie to a woman as a man? Recent research at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business has shown that women are perceived as being more easily misled, and therefore opponent negotiators act differently. Even when the participants only imagined the sales scenario, when the counterpart was a woman, their perception was that she would be more easily manipulated. It doesn’t need to be this way though, if we take action to correct this situation.
If we have women persistently questioning information, asking for verification from multiple sources, writing critical things in contracts and signaling a willingness to retaliate for deception, I think that should help to disconfirm this stereotype. – Jessica Kennedy, Asst. Prof. Vanderbilt University
Even with bucking the system and asking for a raise, women are fighting an uphill battle against both the men and women sitting across from them. Luckily, they don’t have to do it alone.
We all need to step up and create the karma that we wish to reap. A body in motion stays in motion unless an outside force acts upon it. In this case, the body in motion is our current system of paying women almost 25% less than men and the outside force is all of us. Women need to know what the value of their work is in terms of salary and benefits and men need to be allies and champions for change within our organizations.
Women, make good karma for yourself and ASK for that raise.