Salesforce Spent $3 Million to Close the Gender Pay Gap. Here’s Why That’s a Big Deal

November 7, 2015, 3:30 PM UTC

Speaking at the Fortune Global Forum earlier this week, Salesforce (CRM) CEO Marc Benioff revealed that he spent about $3 million this year to bring the salaries of female employees up to the level of their male counterparts.

“We can say we pay women the same that we pay men—we looked at every single salary,” said Benioff.

While $3 million may seem like chump change for a company that’s currently worth nearly $52 billion, Benioff’s willingness to put his—or rather, Salesforce’s—money where his mouth is champions the fight for pay equity. Indeed, even as companies have become more open about their diversity gaps—with many now releasing annual data about how many women and minorities they employ—their gender pay gaps, for the most part, remain shrouded in mystery.

There are a few brave companies that have revealed their pay gaps to the world. In an op-ed in the New York Times, Joanne Lipman wrote about PricewaterhouseCoopers’ decision to release its U.K. gender pay gap. She reports that publicizing the number pushed the company to move toward closing the gap, in part by promoting more women to partner. In the U.S., GoDaddy released the results of an internal salary survey in October. The web hosting company found that it is relatively close to pay parity—though a gap does emerge when you zero in on women in top jobs. The next step for GoDaddy, says CEO Blake Irving, is to understand “the drivers behind gender pay gap at the management level.”

While Salesforce has yet to reveal its wage gap, the fact that Benioff says the company has actually started putting more money into the pockets of underpaid women makes it unique. Looking at biases that play into hiring and promotions and putting more women into senior roles, are vital steps toward resolving the problem in the long term. But women who’ve already fought their way into good jobs—only to be paid less than their male counterparts—surely appreciate the effort to fix the gap on an employee-by-employee level.

As Rob Enderle of advisory services firm Enderle Group put it in the San Francisco Chronicle: “It’s a way to walk the talk. There is a lot of emphasis and concern about disparity in salaries between men and women, and not a lot of progress in correcting the problem.”

The CEO first revealed the company’s plan to comb through the salaries of it’s 16,000-some employees back in April. While a Salesforce spokesperson declined Fortune‘s request to discuss Benioff’s reveal at the Forum, she did confirm that we’ll learn more soon: The company is planning to release details of its salary assessment in February.



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