Last year, the software company Salesforce made headlines when its CEO, Marc Benioff, announced at a conference that the company had done an internal audit of its 17,000 employees to see if it was paying its male and female employees equally. After finding gender-pay disparities, the company then spent $3 million righting that wrong. This idea has taken hold in the tech industry: This week, Facebook and Microsoft both announced that they had achieved gender pay parity, joining a handful of other large companies such as Apple and Intel.
These announcements receive lots of coverage, but what hasn’t is how Salesforce’s internal review got started: It all goes back to the conversations and actions of two of its employees, Leyla Seka and Cindy Robbins. Both have been at the company for 10 years: Seka is a senior vice president of Salesforce’s customer-support unit Desk.com, and Robbins is an executive vice president in charge of HR for all of Salesforce. The two women were part of a program called Women’s Surge, an initiative of Benioff’s that, among other things, required that 30 percent of the attendees of every company meeting had to be women. “We did what the program was supposed to do: We got elevated and got more access,” Seka says. “And through that, we started talking. Equal pay was something that was always on my mind; I've been thinking about it for the last 10 years. As Cindy and I got these new jobs, we felt an obligation to do more for the women inside of our company.”