PHOENIX (CBS SF/AP) — Microsoft’s chief executive has apologized hours after making comments at a conference celebrating women in computing that women don’t need to ask for a raise, and instead trust the system — one that at technology companies is overwhelmingly male.

CEO Satya Nadella spoke Thursday at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Phoenix, Arizona. He was asked to give his advice to women who are uncomfortable requesting a raise.

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According to a webcast of the event, Nadella replied, “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.”

Nadella went on to say:

That, I think, might be one of the additional superpowers that, quite frankly, women who don’t ask for a raise have. 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. That’s the kind of person that I want to really give more responsibility to. And in the long-term efficiency, things catch up.

Nadella was interviewed by Maria Klawe, the president of Harvey Mudd College and a Microsoft director. She told Nadella she disagreed with him, drawing cheers from the audience.

Klawe then suggested women do their homework on salary information and first practice asking with people they trust, relating a story on how she found out she was earning $50,000 less than she should have been when she was hired as Dean of Engineering at Princeton.

Nadella later tweeted a response to the outcry over his remarks.

Thursday evening, a statement from Nadella was posted on Microsoft’s website. In it, Nadella says he answered the question “completely wrong.”

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He said, “men and women should get equal pay for equal work.”

He also said, “If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask.”

According to a study by industry group Joint Venture Silicon Valley, men with graduate or professional degrees in Silicon Valley earn 73 percent more than women with the same qualifications, and men with bachelor’s degree earn 40 percent more than women with the same degrees.

Nadella’s comments underscored why many see technology companies as workplaces that are difficult to navigate or even unfriendly for women and minorities. Tech companies, particularly the engineering ranks, are overwhelmingly male, white and Asian.

Criticized for their lack of diversity, major companies say they are trying to address the problem with programs such as employee training sessions and by participating in initiatives meant to introduce girls to coding.

Twenty-nine percent of Microsoft’s employees are women, according to figures the Redmond, Washington-based company released earlier this month. Its technical and engineering staff and its management are just 17 percent female.

That’s roughly comparable to diversity data released by other big tech companies this year.

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