Salesforce CEO Takes Radical Step To Pay Men And Women Equally

Equal pay for equal work isn’t typically a mantra you hear from the chief executive of a multibillion-dollar company. Yet Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is taking the radical step of reviewing employee salaries to ensure men and women are paid fairly.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. Photo from

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. Photo from

Benioff told The Huffington Post that he is methodically examining the pay of all 16,000 employees at his cloud-based software company to ensure pay equality. So far, Benioff said, he’s given some women raises. “I expect to be giving a lot more,” he said. He anticipates that the process will take a couple of years.

“My job is to make sure that women are treated 100 percent equally at Salesforce in pay, opportunity and advancement,” he said. Though he doesn’t know what the pay gap between men and women is at Salesforce right now, “when I’m done there will be no gap.”

A lot of companies talk about what they’re doing for women, but few address the pay imbalance between the sexes so directly or comprehensively. Open conversation about salary is actively frowned upon in most workplaces. Keeping workers in the dark allows for wide differences in pay.

“Pay is the third rail,” Benioff said.

Nationwide, there’s a stubborn gulf between what men and women earn. In 2013, a woman working full time earned about 77 percent of what a man earned, according to census data.

The wage gap persists for even the most elite workers. Ten years after finishing Harvard Business School, male graduates earn above $400,000 a year while female graduates stay at around $250,000, according to data from the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, cited by The New York Times in 2013.

Economists give a mix of reasons for the difference — women may gravitate to lower-paying industries or trade pay for flexible hours. Sex discrimination also plays a role. And crucially, women may not negotiate for higher wages. If a worker doesn’t negotiate for higher pay in her first job, low wages could dog her for a lifetime.

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WILAB LOVES is a series of articles and blog posts from across the web that Women’s iLab supports. This article was written by Emily Peck and published on on April 23th, 2015.