Male CEO Has A Brilliantly Simple Plan To Destroy The Gender Wage Gap

CREDIT: AP/Paul Sakuma

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff

Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, has launched a companywide program called Women’s Surge that aims to eliminate any pay disparities between male and female workers, hire and promote more women, and make sure they are better included in meetings.

Benioff told the Huffington Post that to close the gender wage gap among his employees, he is examining the salaries of all 16,000 of them. “My job is to make sure that women are treated 100 percent equally at Salesforce in pay, opportunity and advancement,” he told reporter Emily Peck. He doesn’t know what the current wage gap between male and female employees is, and the process could take a couple of years, but vows that “when I’m done there will be no gap.”

And it’s already led to changes, as he says he’s given some women raises. “I expect to be giving a lot more,” he said.

The Women’s Surge program has also prioritized hiring and promoting women by making sure executives evaluate every female candidate for open positions. Still, the company’s employees are 71 percent male, including its 80 percent male tech workforce and 85 percent male leadership team. Benioff has also required that women make up at least 30 percent of the people at every meeting.

He’s not the only executive to try and tackle wage disparities and other barriers for women among their own workforces. Gianmarco Monsellato, CEO of French law firm TAJ, wanted to stem the tide of talented women leaving his firm, so he took charge of tracking compensation and promotions to ensure that they are equal for men and women as well as personally making sure the best cases were doled out evenly to both genders. His firm is now evenly split between men and women at all levels.

Others approach pay gaps in different ways. Ellen Pao, interim CEO of Reddit who also recently lost a high-profile gender discrimination case against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, disclosed that she has done away with salary negotiations as part of the hiring process, instead offering candidates a fixed amount “that we think is fair,” she told the Wall Street Journal. That’s to combat, she says, the fact that women don’t negotiate as hard and are often penalized if they do. The tactic is similar to what public employees experience, where salaries are often rigidly assigned based on title and rank and where the wage gap is much smaller and steadily shrinking.

But another reason government employees have a smaller gap may also be because salaries are mostly publicly available and transparent, and few report that they are banned or discouraged from talking about pay with coworkers. Transparency has caught on outside the public sector: tech companies SumAll and Buffer make all salaries publicly available. That not only undoes any negotiating bias when people are hired but also gives women and people of color the information they need to know how much they should be paid and ask for more.

But among the rest of the workforce, where the gender wage gap means women make 78 percent of what men do, about half of workers say that they are banned or discouraged from talking about pay, making it difficult for women on their own to root out discrimination.