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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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Microsoft paid £1 million to silence female exec passed over for top UK job


Microsoft paid more than £1 million to silence a female executive who allegedly was unfairly passed over for the top job at its UK arm.

According to the Telegraph, Natalie Ayres – a married mother who had worked at the high tech firm for 15 years – missed out on getting the managing director’s post in the summer of 2006, even though she was considered a shoo-in.
Gordon Frazer, a general manager at Microsoft South Africa, was appointed in her place to take over from Alistair Baker, allegedly before Ayres had even completed the interview process. She left at the end of the year after being party to a so-called ‘compromise agreement’, which ran to seven figures.
One source told the newspaper: “It’s a boy’s club. The only way to progress beyond a certain point is to become a male in female clothing. They [the management] do not follow procedure enough and if your face doesn’t fit, you suffer.”
Ayres, who had been general manager of Microsoft UK’s small-medium enterprises & partners group, is quoted in the diversity section of the vendor’s web site as having said it was an inclusive place for women to work.
But the source said that women tended to hit a glass ceiling when working in more senior roles at “level 65 or above”.
The revelations are only the latest in a string of embarrassing stories to emerge from the software giant. Earlier this month, tales of sexual misconduct, heavy drinking and lewd behaviour all surfaced during a £10 million High Court battle.
The case centres on Simon Negus, a former second in command at Microsoft UK, who was sacked amid claims of sexual harassment and is now suing the firm for £10 million for 15 years’ loss of earnings, harassment and wrongful dismissal.
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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett

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