Pay Like You’re Hiring Your Own Daughter

Merit, Not Manhood, Should Be the Only Guiding Principle in Pay

 It has been a little over a year since the thought-provoking Newsweek story, “What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women,” hit the Internet. The piece was an eye-opening tale of rampant inequality and blatant sexism that few had dared to speak about publicly.

While we have seen some strong movement from companies, including Salesforce, in regards to equal pay, we seem to be making little traction in remedying the larger problem. In 2014, the World Economic Forum predicted in its Global Gender Gap Report that we would not reach gender parity until 2095. In 2015, the Forum revised that estimate to 2133.

With a daughter that recently graduated college and is entering the workforce, this is a topic that has weighed heavily on me. Is this the expectation she should have as she starts her career? Will the fact that she is not a man detract from her merit and be a detriment to her compensation?

As an entrepreneur, I strived to create an environment that would not tolerate discrimination – for any reason. There was just one problem with that notion – pay inequality was happening at my own company, and I didn’t realize it. It wasn’t purposeful or calculated, and our fair-and-open culture didn’t cause or propagate it. We simply weren’t asking the right questions about our data and, as a result, we didn’t initially see the issue.

Once we dug through our data, we found that there were, in fact, some pay inequality issues in our business. Fortunately, it only impacted a small number of people in our organization, and we were able to quickly remedy the issue. While this is not the headline grabbing exposé that has become all too commonplace, I do believe it’s the more common scenario. Leaders with even the best intentions can still have these kinds of issues hiding beneath the surface of their data, and these instances of inequity will continue to thrive until someone questions the status quo and takes action. This was the case at Salesforce, just as this was the case with us at Xactly.

It has to stop. I implore company leaders everywhere to take a stand against gender inequality – whether it is blatant or unintended – in Silicon Valley and across the globe.

In the technology industry especially, we need to start practicing what we preach when it comes to using big data to solve real world problems. This begins with leaders having visibility into their own organizations, and using that data to make meaningful changes.

But it also starts with resetting expectations. Again, many leaders assume that fair treatment of prospects and team members is something that is implied. Yet, as the Newsweek article pointed out, instances of inequality happen every day, in companies of all shapes and sizes. We need to reset our expectations, and make it abundantly clear from the top down that discrimination will not be tolerated – in setting compensation, hiring, promoting, rewarding talent, and any situation in-between.

We need to put proper checks and balances in place. Just as financial compliance leaves no room for an emotional response with its systems and checks, compensation needs to be based on similarly concrete factors. Companies need to take a formulaic approach to pay that focuses more on capability, while still considering factors such as education, experience, and professional background. If you think someone is capable of doing a job, then pay him or her fairly for that job; there is no reason for gender to factor into that equation. And that includes unfairly penalizing women for maternity leave. After all, that’s how each of us got here in the first place.

Right now, a lack of engagement is costing U.S. businesses billions of dollars every year. From a business perspective, it makes no sense to alienate some of the highest performing employees by not paying them fairly. From a personal perspective, ensuring equality for everyone, male and female, is simply the right thing to do. It only takes one company to start a movement – and there is no better time to start than now.

Christopher Cabrera
About the author: 

Christopher Cabrera is the Chief Executive Officer of Xactly Corporation (NYSE: XTLY), a pure-play, SaaS company that provides cloud-based, enterprise software, services and tools to allow for sales performance management, sales effectiveness, sales compensation, and employee engagement.  Previously, Christopher held Senior Vice President and Director positions with both Callidus Software and SGI.  Exactly has been recognized (Fortune, Wall Street Journal, etc.) as  a “Great Place to Work and as a “Top 10 Coolest Company to Work For”.  Follow Mr. Cabrera on Twitter.