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Salesforce's Benioff: Every company has a gender gap that CEOs must close

Salesforce (CRM) CEO Marc Benioff said there’s “no question” that women and men are paid differently at all companies, as he called on every CEO to close it.

Research shows that pay disparity between genders is a persistent problem across virtually all industries. While the reasons why vary, Benioff told Yahoo Finance that it was incumbent upon executives to solve the problem.

"[There's] no question that every company has a gender pay gap," Benioff said on the sidelines of Dreamforce, the annual tech conference hosted by Salesforce.

"But every CEO today can look at their own data and say, 'Am I paying men and women equally?' And everyone should come forward and ask their CEOs, 'Hey, do we pay men and women equally for equal work?'"

The World Economic Forum, where Benioff is a trustee, expects that given the current rate of change, it will take 108 years to close the overall gender gap and over 200 years to reach workplace parity.

‘Do we have equality?’

Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO of Salesforce attends the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, January 17, 2017. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

According to his new book, "Trailblazer," Benioff had always viewed himself as progressive when it came to gender equality, especially among the other tech companies.

However, in the spring of 2015, two senior female executives at Salesforce met with Benioff at his home office, and they requested that Salesforce examine itself to see if pay inequality existed at the company.

At the time, Benioff didn't believe that Salesforce had pay disparities. But in the end, he agreed to look under the hood and commit to making any necessary changes, no matter the cost.

The first audit resulted in an adjustment of $3 million. The next year yielded another $3 million change, because of the companies Salesforce had acquired. In all, Salesforce has spent $10.3 million to ensure equal pay for equal work, according to its most recent audit.

Even in the media industry, “you can see the huge issues of gender reform going on even in the media today,” Benioff told Yahoo Finance. “And you have to ask yourself, 'Do we have equality? Are we paying men and women equally for equal work?'“ he asked.

“Because that is what we're really talking about — Why are we not treating people equally?" the CEO added.

Julia La Roche is a Correspondent at Yahoo FinanceFollow her on Twitter.

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