Silicon Valley Should Follow Salesforce’s Diversity Initiative

In my presentation I primarily focused on Salesforce’s innovations, specially their Artificial Intelligence platform: Einstein. But, there is something even more special about Salesforce: their diversity numbers are among the highest for a technology company.

Problems from Lack of Diversity in Tech

The diversity numbers in tech are notoriously low. In just 2016, according to Tech.co, 10 large technology companies in Silicon Valley had no black women employees. Also, “white men accounted for about 39 percent of professionals, 47 percent of managers and 59 percent of executives. That means, if you’re a white man, it’s easier to become CEO than it is to get hired.”

 

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Having a lack of diversity in a company limits company innovation and the ability to catch problems. People are more likely to assume that their own cultural norms are the right way to do things. Some problems that companies have when putting out seemingly racist or insensitive advertisements/statements could be easily avoided if they simply chose to hire a more diverse employee population.

Unconscious Bias also exists in the workforce. I watched a video about how unconscious bias exists even in the highest echelons of the workforce (https://www.inc.com/video/nina-vaca/why-unconscious-bias-exists-even-in-the-highest-echelons-of-management.html). Nina Vaca, Chairman & CEO of Pinnacle Group explains how unconscious bias can occur in the most routine and in ways that show how engrained bias’ such as gender roles are deeply rooted in people’s minds and the problems that occur because of it. She explained a story where she was in her office on a conference call with multiple men, and there was a vacuums sound in the background and immediately one of the men asked if that was her. Something as simple as assuming that the vacuums sound came from the women is just a simple example of how these unconscious bias’ inhibit growth, especially in the workplace.

How Mark Benioff Handled Pay Gap Scandal at Salesforce

Mark Benioff, co-founder and CEO of Salesforce in 2015 was audited and it uncovered a wage gap between the pay between men and women. According to Inc.com, “it uncovered a statistical difference in pay between men and women. “It was everywhere,” Benioff admitted in a 60 Minutes interview. “It was through the whole company, every department, every division, every geography.”” But, he handled this information differently than many CEO’s who would most likely ignore it or put a simple bandage fix on the problem. He first dedicated $3 million to fix the discrepancy that year and another $3 million in 2017 to compensate differences by gender, race, and ethnicity all throughout Salesforce. After this, he made multiple announcements such as he would not hold a meeting unless 30 percent of the employees were women, as well as rules that made it more likely that women were promoted and seen as leaders.

“And that’s what makes Benioff stand out. He believes you can’t be a decent CEO in 2018 if you’re not committed to gender equality. In his campaign to raise awareness, he’s had to convince plenty of other male execs of not only its importance but also that the problem of a pay gap actually does exist.”

This sets a tone for other CEO’s to not only accept that this is a common practice at many companies, but to enact change to make sure that this does not happen again.

Salesforce’s Commitment to Equality

Inequality, in all its forms — gender, LGBTQ, racial, or otherwise — is an issue that every company must address for their own benefit and to create a better world. We believe businesses need to focus on closing the Equality gap with the same energy put into creating new products and markets.”

Salesforce takes equality seriously. Their numbers are much higher than the industry average for technology companies as they strive to have diverse talent in their offices. As I mentioned in my presentation the culture at Salesforce is built around the Ohana which comes from Hawaii. This value of family is very important to them, in that they have “employee-led and employee-organized groups centered around common life experiences or backgrounds, and their allies. Their mission is to make Equality a reality both inside Salesforce and the communities in which we live and work” (Salesforce Website). equality-gender-ethnicity-stats-desktop-2018.jpg

Salesforce has many communities such as Abilityforce, BOLDforce, Earthforce, Latinoforce, Outforce, Asiapacforce, Southasiaforce, Vetforce, Women’s Network, Faithforce, and many more to help support their employees and make them feel included.

Salesforce was voted #1 on 100 best companies to work for in 2017 by Forbes Magazine. Companies should follow in Salesforces’ footsteps, especially ones in Silicon Valley, because it shows the success that a company has when it has a diverse workforce that helps encourage their employees reach their full potential. It is important for large companies such as Salesforce to set the precedent for other companies to follow.

8 thoughts on “Silicon Valley Should Follow Salesforce’s Diversity Initiative

  1. Great post Sean! Very interesting to see the infographic with the data laid out since this topic seems to be barely publicized. When these start-ups make it to the headlines it is normally praise and awe for their advanced tech. I like that Salesforce is doing what they can to increase diversity.

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  2. Interesting post Sean. Seems like Salesforce is employing lots of different strategies to increase diversity. I’m curious which of these tactics has had the most success. I think the financial commitment to closing the wage gap is impressive, but I wonder if something like 30 percent requirement for women in meetings is to blunt of an instrument ( this isn’t perfectly analogous, but for example courts have ruled that you can have affirmative action, but not explicit quotas from subgroups). Anyways, interesting to note that tech has a diversity problem, but Asians are actually pretty strongly represented.

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  3. Hi Sean, this post was especially encouraging and exciting for the future of the tech industry! What really struck me was CFO Mark Benioff’s response to seeing his company’s audit. Making that strong and drastic of a change for diversity was risky in the short term but has proven incredibly rewarding and positive in the long term. Salesforce has such a strong influence beyond its own market but for Silicon Valley as a whole. Will be excited to ask how they have sustained and promoted such an inclusive environment when we visit in a few weeks! Great post!

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  4. Hey Sean, awesome post! It is crazy to me that so many companies lack diversity to such an extent. But it is great to see that there are some companies out there, like Salesforce, that take diversity among employees extremely seriously since it does, like you said, allow employees to reach their full potential. I hope to see more companies start to prioritize diversifying their workforce the same way Salesforce does!

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  5. Sean, this was a great supplementary post to your presentation and it highlighted one of the most prominent issues in Silicon Valley. Recently, more and more information on pay discrepancies and opportunity gaps in not only tech-centric, but differently-focused companies, have come to light. I have no doubt that these issues have persisted for a long time, but the focus that the media and the public are putting on it, as well as the future-facing initiatives that leaders like Benioff have been taking, really seem to be tackling the problem head on. I hope more companies are working to follow in Salesforce’s footsteps, and I look forward to the day when no company meeting will occur without the room being 30% (ideally even 50%) female.

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  6. Nice post. There’s actually a logical fallacy in the opening quote, though. It’s not easier to become CEO than it is to get hired. Each company has tens, hundreds, or thousands of employees but only one CEO. It’s difficult to become CEO no matter your race or gender. Your key points still hold though. Salesforce has always done a very nice job in this area.

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  7. Great post Sean! I had no idea that Salesforce experienced a pay scandal but the response is really inspiring! The idea of not holding a meeting unless 30% of the room is female reminds me of our in class discussion on groupthink, not only does this initiative increase diversity in the room it decreases potential groupthink. I wonder if we’ll see a company take this idea and expand it beyond just race and possibly to ethnicity or cultural background, it would be great to see!

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  8. Nice post Sean! It’s great to see that there are companies like Salesforce making efforts to diversify the mostly homogenous tech industry. I just read an article a couple days ago on how NYC has surpassed SF to become the world’s best tech city due to factors like mobility (though having a lower rating on tech environment). In the past years, SF has had many scandals on the lack of diversity, so it will be interesting to see how the SF/Silicon Valley tech community (as a whole) react to diversity issues in the future.

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