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Today, we celebrate and reflect on the achievements women have made in society and evaluate the challenge to achieve greater gender equality – especially in the workplace.

Australia’s gender inequality statistics illustrate the long and slow process to change, where the pay gap is at its widest sitting at just under 19 per cent and only 21.9 per cent of directors in the ASX 200 are women.

It’s easy to cite stats and case studies to qualify the challenge, but the reality is the corporate world needs to acknowledge that parity is not only necessary, but intrinsically linked to business excellence and performance.

If you want to out-innovate and outperform your competition, it makes no sense to limit the talent pool from which to draw ideas and foster innovation. Therefore, real initiatives must be actioned to make real change.

During my time at Salesforce I’ve had the opportunity to lead our gender diversity program in Australia, and as a company we have made big strides in attempting to address our gender disparity. Our focus has been on three areas: equal pay, equal advancement and equal opportunity. Our first big ‘stake in the ground’ was to look at the salaries of all of our employees.

We made a pledge to address the gender pay gap at our company by achieving 100 per cent salary and compensation equality for men and women. To date, $3 million has been spent to achieve this.

We also rolled out a new policy which called for women to make up at least 30 per cent of the attendees at leadership, product strategy and investment meetings.

Another practical incentive was to change the conversation around gender equality issues to make it truly inclusive for both men and women.  By running focus groups and talking with staff we discovered our male colleagues were just as keen to engage on the issue, but didn’t know how or weren’t given the opportunity to voice their opinions.

We’ve since developed an internal training program on unconscious bias in an effort to change attitudes from the inside out. Importantly, the program brings to the surface many biases that we didn’t know existed and continually forces us to confront them in a positive and productive way.

Unconscious bias is difficult to override because in many cases it is unintentional. Therefore, to honestly tackle gender equality we need to recognise bias within ourselves and help others to acknowledge it.

At Salesforce we know that diversity and inclusion at all levels is critical to the success of our company. A diverse workforce allows us to continue to develop innovative products, it helps us attract and retain the best talent and ultimately it helps us make our customers more successful.

So on this International Women’s Day we have an opportunity to encourage our peers and partners in the industry to continue the work in embracing the gender equality challenge and take the tangible, inclusive steps needed. It’s time we all took the #PledgeForParity.

If you would like to hear more about how we are tackling gender diversity at Saleforce, join us at World Tour Melbourne where we will have a full diversity program including a panel discussion led by ABC 7.30 Anchor Leigh Sales on "Gender Diversity: The Next Frontier for Business”

Register HERE