As a young professional, I used to marvel at the amazing stories of Silicon Valley innovation and perseverance that graced the covers of every major tech and business publication in the U.S. I was proud to be building my career, company, and family in what appeared to be a land of endless possibility.

But behind the stories of 20-year-old college dropouts becoming billionaires, and scrappy startups overtaking some of tech's most iconic brands, were skeletons in the closet; tales of rampant inequality and sexism that few spoke about.

Until now.

From the February cover of Newsweek, to the Ellen Pao trial, Silicon Valley is caught in the backdraft of increasing revelations of discrimination in the workplace. These stories paint a much different picture of Silicon Valley's long-standing perception as a meritocracy, where talent is the arbiter of success. Cleary that isn't the case for everyone.

And while these stories point out a number of blatant offenses, it made me wonder how many more examples are out there. Ones that maybe aren't as calculated, but examples of where no one is really getting under the covers on key discrimination issues, like pay inequality, to see what is really happening.

For me, this is very personal topic as pay inequality was happening right at my own company--and I didn't even know it. It wasn't purposeful or wasn't calculated, and our fair and open culture didn't cause or propagate it; we weren't asking the right questions of our data, and because of that we didn't initially see the issue.

This is how we were able to address that inequity.

My company, Xactly, recently studied the sales compensation data of hundreds of companies--specifically looking at the pay of female and male sales representatives. What we found is that, in general, female sales reps make less money than their male counterparts, even though they are performing better and staying at their companies longer.

Intrigued, I asked my team to take a look at the data specific to our own company. We've always had women in prominent roles, and our top performing sales rep has been a woman for the past few years. Given this, I was shocked to discover that Iwas paying several female sales reps unfairly. Two were being paid less than their male counterparts, and one was being paid too much. Needless to say, I moved quickly to rectify their pay.

Honestly, I never would have thought from a payment standpoint that gender inequality could happen at Xactly--the culture never indicated an issue--but the data proved me wrong. This isn't necessarily the kind of shocker story that's been trending lately, but it is one that is just as important, as it is likely the more common scenario for most businesses. Leaders with even the best intentions can have these issues hiding beneath the surface, and they will continue to thrive without insight.

Big data holds the answers to this issue in an empirical, unbiased form, but we must be willing to ask the hard questions. More importantly, we must be willing to take that information and put the wheels in motion to change the tides of discrimination.

In recognition of National Equal Pay Day, here are four places companies can start on their road to gender pay equality:

1. USE BIG DATA TO SOLVE BIG PROBLEMS

As an industry, it is important to practice what we preach when it comes to using big data to solve real world problems. We might have the best intentions and strongest will in the world toward ending gender inequality. But if don't have visibility into our own organizations, there's no way we can combat this issue.

Examine (and continually re-examine) your compensation data. The answers are in there, and the more data you can analyze, the clearer the problems (and answers) will be.

2. RESET THE EXPECTATIONS. HAVE THE TOUGH CONVERSATIONS!

Gender should never be a guiding factor in setting compensation, or for hiring, promoting, or rewarding talent. Period. Yet, as Newsweek recently pointed out, it is happening everyday in companies of all shapes and sizes. As leaders, we need to reset expectations and make it clear from the top down that discrimination will not be tolerated.

However you chose to communicate with your employees--internal communiqu, town hall meeting, or carrier pigeon; don't be afraid to have the hard conversations and ensure every employee knows what's expected and what's at stake when it comes to discrimination in the workplace.

3. SET THE PARAMETERS FOR FAIR PAY

Just as financial compliance, with its systems and balances, leaves no room for an emotional response, compensation needs to be based on similarly concrete factors. Companies need to take a formulaic approach to pay that, while not neglecting factors like education, experience, and professional background, focuses more on capability. If you think someone is capable of doing a job, then pay them fairly for that job; there is no reason for gender to factor into that equation.

4. TAKE A STAND. START A MOVEMENT!

It is high time to take a stand against gender inequality--whether is blatant or unintended--in Silicon Valley and across the country. Right now, a lack of engagement is costing U.S. businesses billions of dollars. From a business perspective, it makes no sense to alienate some of our 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--why not make it yours?

Today, on National Equal Pay Day, there is no better time to start.