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September 19, 2011

Microsoft accused of sexism in UK office: report

Company allegedly paid out over £1m to female executive in 2006

By CBR Staff Writer

Microsoft reportedly paid over a million pounds to a senior executive in its UK office, Natalie Ayres, after she had been passed over for the top job.

The Daily Telegraph reported that the company paid the amount in a settlement with Ayres. She was tipped to succeed Alistair Baker as managing director of Microsoft UK in 2006. However, the post went to Gordon Frazer, a general manager at Microsoft South Africa. The decision was allegedly made before Ayres had even completed the interview process, sparking talk of sexism among employees. Ayres had worked for the company for 15 years by then and had become the general manager of its Small-Medium Enterprises and Partners Group, said the report.

A source told the Daily Telegraph, "They management do not follow procedure enough and if your face doesn’t fit, you suffer. It’s a boys’ club. The only way to progress beyond a certain point is to become a male in female clothing."

"Although women compete on an equal basis further down the organisation, they hit a glass ceiling at around "level 65 or above," the source added.

The report said, citing sources, that the company then entered into a "compromise agreement" with Ayres, which ran into seven figures.

Then, Frazer had said Microsoft would miss Ayres’ "dedication and intelligence", but respected "her personal decision to move on".

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