Salesforce closes gender pay gap - Activate World

Salesforce closes gender pay gap


  • Initial CEO skepticism on pay inequality
  • Post audits, $8.7 million paid to close gender pay gaps
  • Call to action for other companies to address equal pay

In 2014, Marc Benioff, Salesforce CEO, held his quarterly meeting with his top executives at Salesforce and realized there were hardly any women in the room. He vowed that going forward, at least 30% of attendees to that meeting would be women.  

Salesforce took an early public stance on pay equality. At first Benioff was skeptical his company actually had pay equity problems since promoting and retaining women was a priority at Salesforce. Personnel chief Cindy Robbins and executive VP Leyla Seka met with Benioff telling him they believed there was some level of disparity. He then agreed to the audit. As it turned out, there was pay inequity throughout the entire company costing about $3 million for the adjustments the first year. 

Since then, Salesforce has conducted equal pay assessments for three years and spent over $8.7 million to ensure equal pay for equal work. In 2017, they expanded the scope of their assessment to evaluate salaries, as well as bonuses globally. They also looked at differences in pay for not only gender, but also race and ethnicity in the U.S.

Robbins believes annual audits are a requirement saying “unless you have flawless systems and flawless processes, you’re going to have to run the audit every single year. That’s one thing I aligned with Marc Benioff very early on, that this was not a one and done thing.” And Salesforce acquires many companies, acquiring 14 companies in 2017 alone.  Robbins explained that “When you acquire 14 companies, you acquire not just their technology and their people, but also their pay practices.”  

The audit drove changes in Salesforce’s recruitment process. Instead of asking about candidates about current compensation, recruiters and hiring managers now ask, “what is the compensation you expect?” Otherwise, new employees are simply bringing in their pay gap from their previous employer.


  • Salesforce has increased the number of women employees by 2,000 in the last year and increased the number of females in leadership roles by 34% since instituting the assessment.
  • Since implementing the equal pay audit in 2016, employee sentiment around whether they thought they were paid fairly rose from 80% to 92%.
  • Cindy Robbins says Salesforce’s efforts around equal pay is a call to action for other companies to start doing the same.

Quest and Actions (Q&A)

  • In November, the World Economic Forum estimated that the global pay and employment opportunity gender gap will take 217 years to close. What should business leaders do to accelerate pay equity in their organizations?  
  • Salesforce employee sentiment on fair compensation rose from 80% to 92% since the equal pay audit in 2016. How does this type of employee experience impact a company’s culture?
  • If an organization is known to have closed the pay gap, could this be a powerful way to demonstrate company values that should in turn attract new talent and customers?

Sources: Business Insider, CBS News,  Inc., Quartz at WorkSalesforce Blog

Photo by Gabriel on Unsplash