Oracle's board will unanimously reject a shareholder request for a gender pay gap audit

Et tu, Safra?

When Oracle meets for its annual shareholder meeting on November 17, the board of directors will vote to reject a shareholder proposal requesting that the company do a payroll audit to check for a gender pay gap.

In a filing with the Security and Exchange Commission on Thursday, the board — made up of nine men and three women — indicated that it would reject the proposal unanimously.

Gender wage gap audits have been increasingly common as tech companies feel pressure from both their employees and the US government to prove that their pay structures don’t discriminate against women. Several studies have found that men in tech continue to make more money than women for doing the same work.

One of Oracle’s largest competitors, Cisco, completed its own audit of US pay in August 2016. After looking for gaps along the lines of race and gender, the company ultimately made adjustments to 2% of its employees salaries, the total of which represented just 0.1% of the total US base payroll, the company said.

Similarly, Apple, Amazon, eBay, Intel, Expedia, Microsoft, and Adobe have all also released gender pay comparison metrics at the request of their shareholders.

Oracle’s shareholder request was filed by shareholders Pax World Mutual Funds, which bills itself as a socially responsible mutual fund.

Two CEOs

The proposal requests that Oracle perform an audit for a gender wage gap by April 2018, and present steps to resolve the gap should one be found. The proposal notes that women make up 29% of Oracle’s employees, but only hold 23% of its leadership positions.

However, in its statement rejecting the proposal, Oracle argued that it is already doing enough.

“Diversity and inclusion in our workforce starts at the top,” Oracle wrote in its statement, citing one of its two CEOs, Safra Catz, as an example of strong female leadership at the company. It also highlights the board, which is 25% female, as an example of equality.

“We make every effort to attract, invest in and develop the talents of employees who reflect the diversity of our customers and the communities in which we do business…We are also committed to pay equity for all of our employees and ensuring that we do not discriminate on the basis of gender or any protected category in the full range of our compensation decisions,” the statement says.

“The board does not believe that this stockholder proposal would enhance Oracle’s existing commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace,” the statement says.

While shareholder proposals are almost always voted down by companies, Oracle’s rejection comes at a time when tech companies face increasing external pressure to prove that their companies are friendly to women.

Google, for one, has been at the forefront of the conversation since the Department of Labour filed a lawsuit earlier this year demanding that the company turn over more information about how employees are compensated. Google claimed that its own internal audits showed no sign of a pay gap, and succeeded in convincing a judge that the Department of Labour was asking for too much internal data.

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