How could the gender-gaffe on pay equity made by Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Satya Nadella present an opportunity? Within all public relations crises, opportunities exist. It’s a matter of taking the actions that allow for those opportunities to become reality. If handled correctly, corporations can emerge stronger than ever.

For readers unfamiliar with the Microsoft CEO’s comments about women allowing karma to determine their pay increases, this video will give you background on the Microsoft public relations crisis.

Some items Microsoft might consider in managing its pay-equity public relations crisis:

  • Microsoft is vulnerable now and should consider other agendas by those who will not let a good crisis go to waste.
  • Microsoft should consider both internal and external scenarios, because other storylines likely exist; prepare for these eventualities and determine legitimate actions that get to the heart of heading off these issues.
  • Microsoft CEO Nadella issued what appears to be a sincere apology and clarification of his belief in closing the gender pay gap. Apologizing unequivocally creates credibility on the issue. Now he has an opportunity to build on the credibility to regain trust in his leadership and the Microsoft brand.

So where’s the opportunity, you might ask. The opportunity resides in Nadella’s own apology: “Our industry must close gender pay gap so a raise is not needed because of a bias.”

Microsoft can differentiate and distinguish itself from tech giants Google (GOOG), Apple (AAPL) and others attempting to attract and retain technology talent.

According to CNN Money’s Charles Riley, Microsoft’s workforce is 71% male, a figure that rises to 83% for both technical and leadership roles. Those figures are roughly in line with the gender breakdown at Google, FacebookYahoo and Apple.

Imagine a scenario where Microsoft takes the lead on gender pay. It positions them well for talent recruitment and retention. Which, according to this article 11 Reasons 2014 Will Be A Breakout Year for Women Entrepreneurs, there’s plenty of evidence about the benefits of women in corporate leadership.

Gender pay leadership could be a game-changer with technology consumers too.  Women make up a commanding and growing force in purchasing power.  According to Nielsen research U.S. Women Control The Purse Strings, the next decade of wealth will decidedly reside with women. And, Nielsen findings are reinforced by this Deloitte study on purchasing, “making women the largest single economic force in the U.S. [and] the world.”

Nielsen notes: “Women have tremendous spending power in America today—and it’s growing. Market estimates about their total purchasing prowess varies, ranging anywhere from $5 trillion to $15 trillion annually. And the scope of that spending is notably vast. Fleishman-Hillard Inc. estimates that women will control two-thirds of the consumer wealth in the U.S. over the next decade and be the beneficiaries of the largest transference of wealth in our country’s history.”

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