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Microsoft CEO ​Nadella: Company has no pay gap between men, women

Microsoft chief Satya Nadella pushes new services from the world's largest software maker. But his controversial comments on women in tech earlier this month remain a focus of attention.

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella pitches his company's cloud services, but two-week-old comments he made about women in tech still dog him. Seth Rosenblatt/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO -- Satya Nadella may want everyone to know Microsoft is the king of the cloud, but attention remained on his comments about how women at tech firms shouldn't ask for raises.

Nadella, CEO of the world's biggest software company, appeared here Monday with Microsoft's cloud and enterprise executive vice president, Scott Guthrie, to tout the talking points Nadella has hammered home since he took over as Microsoft's chief in February. Nadella wants to make Microsoft less reliant on its Windows operating system software, which represents the majority of revenue, and is promoting cloud platforms and productivity apps that work across a range of devices that run Windows, Apple's Mac and iOS platforms, Google's Android software and the Linux open-source platform.

But the question-and-answer session that followed Nadella's cloud pitch turned to his comments that women working for tech firms shouldn't ask for pay raises. Nadella, speaking earlier this month at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Phoenix, said that women should have "faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along." Today, he said that men and women get paid equally at Microsoft.

Women represent 29 percent of Microsoft's workforce, with only 17 percent working directly in technology. A new report published in September said women at tech companies earn $6,358 less than their male counterparts, while women with at least one child earn $11,247 less than everyone else.

"I was insensitive to the broader context," Nadella said today. Following his blunder, for which he apologized in public statements and in a blog post, he said he found no pay gap between men and women at Microsoft. "It turns out that we are in good shape on that, but that doesn't really capture the essence... and that is equal opportunity."

"We have a lot more to do," Nadella said, adding, "How do we get women to come back after they've taken a break?"

Nadella didn't proffer any answers.

Today's event was intended to tout several new Azure cloud services and how Microsoft believes its offering stacks up against competing cloud computing services from Amazon and Google. Mobile-first and cloud-first are the keystones of Microsoft's new strategy since Nadella took over from longtime former chief Steve Ballmer. The company is focused on a "ubiquitous platform" made up of the consumer-oriented Office 365, its Web-based productivity suite; Azure, its widely used cloud server and storage business; and Dynamics, its enterprise-planning and customer-management application suite, Nadella said.

Azure, a business that generates $4.4 billion in annual sales, is used by 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies. Guthrie said that 40 percent of Azure revenue comes from startups and independent software vendors.

Azure, Nadella said, has the biggest global footprint of any cloud service, with 19 global regions including two opening in Australia next week. "That's six times the number of regions that Google Cloud has," he said.