Satya Nadella, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group (Pic courtesy: Microsoft)
As Microsoft appears set to name the Hyderabad, India born Satya Nadella as its new CEO, I have decided to look at the software giant from its “gender breakout” standpoint.
Microsoft’s “Facts about Microsoft” statement on its website reports many things but the one that drew my attention was its male and female employee numbers. As of 2013, the company has 44,826 male employees and 14,371 female employees in the U.S. Those numbers make Microsoft a 75.7 percent male company and 24.3 percent female company. To me, that terribly skewed gender ratio should be one of Nadella’s immediate internal challenges if he is chosen.
Technology companies, like companies generally, do tend to be male-heavy and that has a direct impact on their products in terms of whom they appeal to. Even if the male employees try hard to think like women, there is just no getting around natural differences between the way the two genders approach life. It might seem counterintuitive to mention testosterone and software together but there is certain inherent maleness to most software. Since they have no choice women do end up adapting to the lopsided product mix but I am fairly certain that given a choice they would introduce a whole new range that would appeal to the other half of humanity.
There could be any number of reasons why Microsoft is so men-heavy including subconscious biases embedded in the way corporations recruit employees as well as the imbalance between the male and female engineering graduates.
Of course, the gender imbalance in his own backyard may hardly rise to the level of important priorities once—and if—Nadella takes over. Since he will be only the third CEO in the company’s 39-year-old history his focus is likely to be on the so-called big picture with grander objectives including restoring some of the edge back to a giant that has often seemed to be weighed down by its own success.
I would argue that it would serve Nadella well to consider correcting the gender imbalance early on in his dispensation. I understand that no company can correct such intrinsic problems in a salutary fashion. It has to have evolve over a period of time and work to a specific plan. Maintaining gender balance for the sake of it is unlikely to work in a ruthless corporate environment. That said, it is hard to accept that something as egalitarian as IT should be, behind-the-scenes, so terribly imbalanced.
On a more trivial note, if not for anything else for his sharp and fairly hip sartorial sense alone Nadella should be appointed Microsoft CEO. When I say this I say it in a relative sense because one just has to look at Bill gates and Steve Ballmer to understand what I mean. These two gentlemen have set the sartorial bar so low that it should take no effort for Nadella to top it. The picture above from Microsoft’s website has a certain chic casualness. I have seen his photographs in other situations as well and I am happy to report that his suits and other clothes do not seem to have been tailored in the alleyways of old Hyderabad.
P.S.: Today’s headline is deliberate because it is a name that is trending. Why bother adding anything else?