The Challenge of Closing the Pay Gap

03/08/2018
Equal Pay

By Cindy Robbins
President and Chief People Officer, Salesforce

Achieving gender parity remains one of the world’s most pressing challenges. But it also presents one of its biggest opportunities. Closing the global gender gap in economic participation by 25 percent could alone increase global GDP by $5.3 trillion by 2025. Yet, while more and more research indicates the economic benefit of gender parity, men continue to outearn women across the globe.

The latest Global Gender Gap Report from the World Economic Forum indicates that it could take 217 years to close the economic gender gap at the current rate. We cannot wait that long. The focus of this year’s International Women’s Day, Press for Progress, sends a clear message: it’s time to act on the gender wage gap. Companies have a crucial role to play to accelerate equal pay; one that, at Salesforce, we take very seriously.

Throughout my 12-year career at Salesforce, I have benefitted from the company’s work to advance women into leadership roles. But I knew there was more we could do. My longtime friend and colleague, Leyla Seka, and I decided to put our heads together to figure out what we could do to help other women at Salesforce succeed, including looking to see if we had a wage gap.

In 2015, we decided to approach CEO Marc Benioff, not as the company’s human resources leaders, but as two women who had benefited from the steps Salesforce had already taken, and continues to take, to provide equal opportunity for all. Marc listened to our proposal and fully supported our idea to conduct an equal pay audit across the company.

While we were encouraged and excited to take this on, figuring out where to start wasn’t easy—there was no playbook for this. We started by assembling the right team. We grouped employees in comparable roles and analyzed their salaries to determine whether there were statistically significant wage differences between women and men. We based our analysis on factors such as job function, level and location. If the analysis found unexplained pay differences, we made adjustments.

Our first assessment indicated that six percent of Salesforce employees required a pay adjustment. In total, we spent $3 million to address any unexplained differences in pay. From that point on, we committed to monitoring and reviewing compensation on an ongoing basis to ensure equal pay for equal work.

After a year of tremendous growth, acquiring 14 companies and adding more than 7,000 employees, we conducted a second pay audit and spent an additional $3 million to adjust compensation.

When we did the second assessment many asked, “Why do we have to do this again?” The simple, but difficult answer is that equal pay is not a one-and-done fix—it’s a moving target, especially for high growth companies in competitive industries. We committed to reviewing compensation on an ongoing basis when we started this process in 2015—and that’s exactly what we plan to do.

Our goal at Salesforce is equality for all, and we will continue to focus on equality, diversity and inclusion at all levels. But this is not something we want to own by ourselves. Other companies can join us. It starts by making equal pay a core value and priority.

As with any major organizational change, you need to get buy-in from the top. For us, this wouldn’t have been possible without Marc’s support and advocacy.

It’s also important not only to evaluate the data, but to look at the root of the problem and how we can continue to improve the hiring and compensation processes. Most importantly, equality cannot be an afterthought, it must be part of the company’s DNA.

We are working with our entire community, including customers and partners, to bring our vision of equality to life. We are members of the Employers for Pay Equity coalition and have partnered with Lean In, McKinsey and other organizations to advance conversation and action on fixing the gender wage gap.

We cannot wait over 200 years to build a truly equal world. Business leaders must start by collectively taking action to close the gender wage gap. The time to press for progress is now.

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