This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
Sometimes inspiration comes with a bolt of lightning and a key tied to a kite string. Sometimes it comes while watching the Academy Awards.
Like millions of people, I was moved and excited and pumping my fist when Patricia Arquette called for an end to wage inequality in the film industry during her Oscar speech for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Boyhood. It was unreal to see a celebrity use 45 seconds at the podium as a platform for something meaningful. It certainly meant something to me, so much in fact, we invited Ms. Arquette to speak at the Dreamforce Women's Leadership summit about her fight for wage equality, the session Pay Equality – From Hollywood to Silicon Valley.
The tech industry has been under fire for its lack of diversity, particularly when it comes to women and minorities in leadership and technology roles. It wasn't until watching that acceptance speech that I knew there was more that needed to be done.
Recently, McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org released Women In the Workplace 2015, a report shining a light on the gaps in equality women face on the job. The report confirmed many things I knew or suspected were true – women continue to be underrepresented at every level in the corporate pipeline; they face greater barriers to advancement; and while CEOs say they're committed to gender diversity, many of their employees simply don't see it. Perhaps the most jarring statistic in the report is that, based on the slow rate of progress over the last three years, it will take 25 years to reach gender parity at the senior vice-president level, and more than 100 years in the C-suite. I don't know about you, but I don't think any of us has that kind of time.
After being moved to action by Patricia Arquette's speech, I discussed the issue of gender and wage equality with a colleague and friend, Cindy Robbins, who is Salesforce's EVP of Global Employee Success. Together we decided we needed to broach the topic, not as an HR issue, but as a bigger industry issue. At that time, we did not know if there was a wage gap at Salesforce, but we wanted to be sure this problem did not exist at Salesforce.
We approached Marc Benioff, CEO and founder of Salesforce to gain his support in doing a salary assessment. Our ask: we want to work at a company where everyone is treated equally with the opportunity for advancement. He listened and agreed that Salesforce has a company culture where wage inequality would not be tolerated. That's when the hard work began: we're in the process of assessing the compensation of more than 17,000 employees. A pay assessment is now part of our core DNA moving forward. While this was a huge win for my career and my company, there are millions of women who aren't as fortunate.
Here are four things I would encourage you and your company to start doing to move the needle:
In Canada, more than 98 per cent of businesses have less than 100 employees. This creates a tremendous opportunity for startups and small businesses to make a commitment to equal pay and diversity and to more easily incorporate policies and processes because their size makes them more nimble. Imagine the possibilities if change was driven where the bulk of Canadians are employed.
Take a data-driven approach to looking at gender-based pay. Data is critical for a company to understand where it is, what it needs to do and allows it to measure its progress. Quantitative and qualitative data means a company can glean deeper insights into what's driving potential disparities and what might be needed to address them.
It's one thing to make a commitment to change; it's another to be public about it. By being transparent about your company's progress in the journey to close the diversity divide, you are able to tangibly show change and inspire other organizations that might not be as far along the journey. Even more importantly, by going public you're more likely to keep your company on track and accountable to meeting goals.
It sounds simple, but speaking up is incredibly powerful. If you don't ask questions, you'll never know the answers. And if you don't feel you're equipped to advocate for yourself for salary or a promotion, find a sponsor or a mentor within your company to help build your confidence and strategize for you to have that conversation. Beyond internal resources, arm yourself with research. Read up on wage inequality and tips on how to negotiate a raise.
Whatever your position or your gender, there's an opportunity in front of you to make a difference and close the wage gap. Women deserve to be heard, to be paid equally and to move to the top of organizations. Let's set the wheels in motion for change. One hundred years is too long to wait to see the final barriers removed to achieving true gender equality.
Leyla Seka is senior vice-president and general manager, Desk.com at Salesforce.