The executive made the remark on Thursday while speaking at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference.
During his talk, Harvey Mudd College president Maria Klawe asked Nadella if he has any advice for women in the tech industry who want to ask for a raise.
Nadella surprised the audience by answering that women shouldn't ask for a pay increase and instead, just wait for it to happen.
"It's not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise," he said. "It's good karma. It will come back."
Nadella's answer was not received well by members of the audience, including Klawe. She told the Microsoft boss that his viewpoint was "one of the very few things that I disagree with you on."
Other people took to Twitter to share their thoughts on what Nadella said, International Business Times reported.
"Is @satyanadella so out of touch with [Microsoft Management] that he thinks [you] don't need to push hard to get a raise, or is that just what he tells #GHC14?" Twitter user Leigh Honeywell posted.
"@satyanadella so you're just saying 'trust the system that created the structural inequity' in a slightly different way," another user tweeted.
Following the backlash, Nadella released a letter to apologize for his controversial comment according to Business Insider.
"I answered that question completely wrong," he wrote. "Without a doubt I wholeheartedly support programs at Microsoft and in the industry that bring more women into technology and close the pay gap. 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," he added. "If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask."
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