Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been forced to apologise after suggesting that women shouldn't ask for pay rises but have "faith in the system" instead.
Nadella made the statement yesterday at a conference in Arizona after being asked how women could best get ahead in the technology industry.
"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 said. "Because that's good karma. It'll come back because somebody's going to know that's the kind of person that I want to trust."
Microsoft board member Maria Klawe, also attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, immediately objected, saying Nadella's statement was "one of the very few things that I disagree with you on."
But after an outcry on social media, Nadella has now apologised in an email to employees.
"I answered that question completely wrong. Without a doubt I wholeheartedly support programs at Microsoft and in the industry that bring more women into technology and close the pay gap," he wrote.
"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."
Article continues below
Currently, women make up just 28% of Microsoft's workforce worldwide - and under 20% when it comes to tech jobs. Over the last year, it's upped the number of senior executive women and minorities - but still only has 27%.
Indeed, according to Silicon Valley Bank, the industry as a whole is poor at promoting women, with only 45% of Silicon Valley firms having any women at all at the highest levels of management. The situation's only marginally better in Europe, where the figure's 50%.
And women's pay lags well behind that of men, too. The tech industry is better than most when it comes to equality, but still sees men earning 28% more than men in tech jobs and 12% more in engineering, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Nadella's ideas on pay rises, though, are very different to those of Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook. In her book Lean In, published last year, she says women should speak out more and ask for what they believe they deserve.
"It never even occurred to me to negotiate my first salary,," she wrote. "I waited for someone to tell me how much money I'd be earning so I could figure out where to live. I ended up supplementing my income by teaching aerobics classes on the weekend."
Read more about women's pay on AOL Money:
Women working longer on low pay
95% of women set for pension crisis
More young women in low paid jobs