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At Microsoft meeting, shareholders take on diversity, CEO’s pay

Microsoft investors will convene Wednesday for the company’s annual meeting of shareholders, and on the agenda is diversity within the software maker, as well as pay approval for CEO Satya Nadella.

The meeting will be the first for Nadella, who took the reins at Microsoft nine months ago. He will be persuading shareholders that his vision — to make Microsoft (MSFT) the “productivity and platform company for the mobile-first, cloud-first world” — is the right one.

Nadella’s pay package, which will be up for approval by shareholders, includes about $65 million in restricted stock on top of his annual salary. His total pay package is valued at approximately $90.8 million for the year ended June 30.

While his pay is likely to be unchanged, it has faced challenges from Institutional Shareholder Services, a firm that advices shareholders on proxy votes. The group said the “mega” stock grant is excessive and recommended that shareholders strike down the proposal.

The Chairman of the Board John Thompson defended the package, saying that the stock payment “motivates our CEO to create sustainable long term shareholder value by providing him with the opportunity to share in those gains.”

Also on the agenda today is a speech by Jesse Jackson. The civil rights advocate plans to address the typically white- and male-dominated technology industry to push for programs that expand inclusion of diverse workers.

Microsoft has diverse representation at its highest ranks, including an African-American board chairman, an Indian CEO and a female CFO, but the overall statistics aren’t flattering: the company is 61% white and 71% male.

Jackson met with Nadella and other Microsoft executives on Monday in advance and came away with an optimistic outlook.

“One sees in Microsoft a much bigger willingness and effort to move toward some plan,” Jackson told the Seattle Times. “I think they get it.”

The meeting hopefully curbed a potentially contentious back-and-forth as seen at Hewlett-Packard’s (HP) annual gathering when Jackson grilled CEO Meg Whitman.

The meeting starts at 11 a.m. ET Wednesday and will be held at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, Wash.