One Tech Company Just Erased Its Gender Pay Gap

After a review of its 17,000 employees' salaries, Salesforce revised its payroll to make sure men and women were being paid equally for similar jobs.

Ruben Sprich / Reuters

Almost all stories about the gender wage gap start with one figure: On average, women earn 78 cents for every $1 a man earns. These stories usually end with a series of policy recommendations for how to close that persistent 22-cent gap. Solutions range from allowing flexible work hours and raising the minimum wage to banning salary negotiations and requiring companies to publicly report their wage gaps.

One company has decided on a more direct approach: just pay women more.

In a panel at a conference organized by Fortune last week, Marc Benioff, the CEO of the cloud-based software company Salesforce, said that he recently ordered a review of all 17,000 employees’ salaries to see if female employees’ pay was in line with those of male employees doing similar jobs. According to Fortune, Benioff said that the company is spending about $3 million extra this year on its payroll to make these adjustments. “We can say we pay women the same that we pay men,” he said the conference. “We looked at every single salary.”

What prompted this review was the allegation, made earlier this summer by Salesforce employees Cindy Robbins and Leyla Seka, that women at the company likely weren’t being paid as much as men. Benioff said he was initially skeptical, but commissioned an internal review anyway. Data on the compensation of employees in all departments at all levels of tenure apparently revealed Robbins and Seka’s suspicions to be warranted.

Salesforce has declined to clarify the $3 million figure or provide further details—the size of the average adjustment, how many employees saw their salaries changed, and how they reacted—but is going to put out a report with more information next year.

One aspect of gender parity at Salesforce, though, needs no further data collection: Overall, the company is 70 percent men and 30 percent women. Among leadership positions, it’s 81 percent male. The preliminary details of Salesforce’s salary revisions sound promising, but the shortage of women throughout the company, and particularly at the top, indicates the scale of the work remaining.

Further, while pay equality is being instituted at Salesforce, it’s just one company. “Salesforce has set a strong precedent, but we can’t rely on the good graces of every single employer in America to conduct this same kind of review and adjustment,” said Vivien Labaton from Make It Work, a campaign that pushes for equal pay. “We need a national standard.”