Patricia Fletcher via the gaurdian
When head of HR, Cindy Robbins, first told Salesforce’s CEO, Marc Benioff, that women were paid less, he didn’t believe her. Now he’s spending $3million fixing the problem
Earlier this month Salesforce found a simple solution to the gender pay gap. It conducted a review of its staff’s salaries, and then adjusted them accordingly so that men and women in similar roles were earning similar amounts. The review came about after Cindy Robbins, senior vice president of Employee Success, and Leyla Seka, senior vice president of Desk.com, pointed out CEO Marc Benioff that female staff were probably being paid less. Initially sceptical, when Benioff realised what they were saying was true he went out of his way to fix it. But the company isn’t stopping there, it wants to create one of the most female-friendly cultures in tech.
Only 30% of Salesforce employees are women and few of those women are in influential positions. In 2013 The Women’s Surge programme was put into place by Benioff to force an increase of women in decision-making and influencer roles. Women must now make up at least 30% of the attendees at leadership and product strategy and investment meetings; a 50:50 split is the ultimate goal. Having women in the room is one thing; getting women to be seen and heard is another, especially in a culture where male voices are the norm. The key seems to be in numbers, the more women in the room, the more likely they are to talk..
“We see women stepping up and speaking up in our internal strategy meetings with Marc. They are banding together, and gaining confidence in bringing forward some great ideas,” says Robbins. “Leyla and I just look at each other and say: ‘it’s working’”.
The cultural shift is happening, yet Robbins and Seka knew it was not enough. They wanted to give women equal access to power and influence, ultimately enabling them to ascend in the company. The duo approached Benioff, challenging how Women’s Surge could succeed if Salesforce didn’t take a cold, hard look at their compensation packages. Women are either treated as equally valued or they are not. Benioff agreed.
The solution seems simple enough: women should be paid the same as their male counterparts. The reality is anything but simple. Salesforce has 17,000 employees and the company has spent roughly $3million this year adjusting female salaries to match their male colleagues. Robbins and her team are in unchartered territory. “There is no framework for companies to do this. There is no right or wrong way. We have to unpack what has been done and we have to be thoughtful,” says Robbins.
While the pay gap exists among the genders, Robbins is careful to point out that the salary reviews should not be mistaken for a women’s only issue.
“We are focused on equal pay for every employee. Let’s not lose site about that. We are taking strides to develop the right approach moving forward,” says Robbins.
To gain this investment and make an expensive cultural shift, the timing had to be right. Robbins believes that the debate around gender equality has finally moved from philanthropic conversations to taking action. She points out that it’s no longer just women advocating for women, male executives have taken it upon themselves to develop programmes aimed at promoting their female employees and addressing the gender gap within the business. Equal pay is important but creating a real culture shift, that is Salesforce really putting its money where its mouth is.