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September 17, 2015

Former Microsoft Employee Suing for Gender Discrimination

Katherine Moussouris Accuses Company of Promoting Men Ahead of Women, Biased Evaluation System

Photo by Johannes Hemmerlein

A former Microsoft employee is suing the tech giant for gender discrimination, saying the company promotes men ahead of more qualified women for tech roles.

The lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in federal court in Seattle, is seeking class action status. Filed by Katherine Moussouris, who worked at Microsoft from 2007 to 2014, the suit accuses the company of promoting men in technical positions more than their female counterparts. The suit also says women workers were paid less and received less favorable performance reviews than men, which resulted in lesser compensation and bonuses.

Microsoft, the document alleges, “systematically violates female technical employees’ rights” which results in “unchecked gender bias that pervades its corporate culture.”

Moussouris said she was paid less than her male peers throughout her tenure at the company and, due to the ranking system used by Microsoft, always was ranked below what she deserved, despite being commended by her managers for her performance.

From 2010 to 2014, Moussouris said, Microsoft passed her over for promotions in favor of less qualified and less experienced men. In 2012, for example, her name was not put forward for promotion because she was on maternity leave.

“Plaintiff’s managers from 2011 through 2013 told her that although the impact, quality, and scope of her work had been ‘Principal-level’ for years, certain managers did not like her manner or style, and so Microsoft did not promote her,” the document adds.

The suit also says Microsoft “has failed to implement policies and procedures to prevent retaliation against employees who challenge gender discrimination in the workplace, has failed to address complaints of gender discrimination in the workplace, and has failed to conduct proper investigations of same.”

Microsoft, in a brief statement to the media, said it is “committed to a diverse workforce, and to a workplace where all employees have the chance to succeed.”

The lawsuit comes about a year after CEO Satya Nadella angered women with his comments at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing during which he inferred that women should not ask for a raise.

His comments, made to a roomful of women, resulted in major backlash on Twitter and in the media.

“It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raises as you go along,” Nadella said during the interview on stage with Harvey Mudd college president Maria Klawe. “And that, I think, might be one of the additional superpowers … that women who don’t ask for a raise have — because that’s good karma. It will come back.”

Nadella, about a week later, issued a lengthy memo to Microsoft employees to apologize for his remarks.

“Any advice that advocates passivity in the face of bias is wrong,” he wrote. “Leaders need to act and shape the culture to root out biases and create an environment where everyone can effectively advocate for themselves. Make no mistake: I am 100 percent committed to diversity and inclusion at the core of our culture and company.”


Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.