Skip to Content

Is there a gap in the Salesforce CEO’s plan to eliminate the wage gap?

Late last week, Salesforce.com (CRM) CEO Marc Benioff told The Huffington Post that he was taking on the company’s pay gap by examining the salaries of all 16,000 company employees to ensure men and women are paid equally. “When I’m done there will be no gap,” said Benioff.

The move is part of a larger Salesforce initiative, launched in 2013, to increase the number of women in the company. (Currently, 29% of the Salesforce workforce is female, with women holding 20% of technical jobs). Benioff says he also wants at least 30% of attendees at all meetings to be women and asks managers to consider all female candidates when hiring and promoting.

While any attempt to eliminate the wage gap—especially a big, public move like this—is admirable, there appear to be some, well, gaps in Benioff’s plan. According to HuffPo, the CEO does not know what type of pay differential exists between men and women in the company’s various departments. So, he will attempt to equalize salaries by “methodically examining the pay of all 16,000 employees.” Benioff, who says he has already given raises to some female employees, expects the process to take a couple years.

It seems reasonable to expect that, if closing the pay gap is a priority, a leading technology company could find a more efficient way to identity and eliminate its wage disparities. The announcement was also light on details about how Salesforce will correct any wage inequalities it discovers, and how hiring managers will avoid perpetuating a gap with new hires. Finally, there’s the issue of company leadership. Men hold 85% of the top jobs at Salesforce. The reality is, as long as men continue to hold the majority of senior positions, they will continue to out-earn women.

Leyla Seka, VP of Desk.com, Salesforce’s customer support department, and Cindy Robbins, head of human resources, encouraged Benioff to confront the salary issue. While Seka acknowledges that the company has yet to identify the specifics, she stresses the importance of taking the first steps. “We are going to take a look and see what’s up. If we find things, we will rectify them,” she says.

Seka says the company is just beginning the research process using the company’s Wave analytics tool, an interative data processing program. Salesforce is also bringing in an outside firm, which will analyze ten years worth of company salary data.

Of course, simply making the announcement is a big step in the right direction. No other large tech company CEO has come out so vocally about identifying and eliminating the wage gap. Benioff is putting himself on the line at a time when CEOs tend to avoid discussing this topic in public.

“Let’s hope it puts on more pressure in a good way,” says Laura Kray, a professor at California Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and a founding faculty director of the school’s Women’s Executive Leadership Program. Now that Salesforce has made the announcement, she says: “People are expecting to see a comprehensive analysis and some sort of change.”

“Marc Benioff wants to get rid of the gender wage gap, and that is great,” says Ariane Hegewisc, a study director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “He is trying to make it easier for women to move into senior positions by addressing gender representation, adjusting wages where there were gaps, and encouraging his managers to have properly balanced lists of potential employees.”

Making such a public proclamation may also help the company when it comes to snagging the best female candidates. “What they are doing as an organization demonstrates leadership on this issue, and I think that will translate to greater commitment among women employees. They may even see more applications from qualified women,” says Kray. “One would think that highly qualified women in the tech sector would have their pick of the litter in terms of a job. This potentially gives Salesforce a competitive advantage.”