How Salesforce makes equality a core value

Digital Illustration: How a culture of inclusion and workplace diversity positively impacts IT teams

Creating a culture of equality, particularly in the Silicon Valley tech world, is not a spectator sport, according to Molly Ford, senior director of global equality programs at Salesforce. “There’s a role for everyone on the path to equality,” Ford said. “Be an equality ally — ask, listen, show up, speak up.” 

There’s a role for everyone on the path to equality. Be an equality ally — ask, listen, show up, speak up.

Molly Ford, Salesforce

Ford spoke on “How a culture of inclusion and workplace diversity positively impacts IT teams” during the NRFtech conference in San Francisco and started her presentation by noting that in the early days of computing, the majority of coders were typists; i.e., women. That changed over the years as computer companies began marketing to men. “Only once computing became more about data and stats did men become more pervasive in tech,” she said.

Fixing Silicon Valley’s ‘bro culture’

Salesforce is one of the world’s leading companies in workforce equality, and Ford’s job is to develop and grow a diverse and productive technology workforce. “I ask myself, ‘What are the obstacles or barriers within Salesforce that I can help knock down so diversity can happen?’” Ford said. 

Luckily, Salesforce founder and CEO Mark Benioff has made equality a core value. “Over three years, Salesforce has paid out almost $10 million to balance salaries,” Ford said. More importantly, going forward, the pay gap issue won’t arise again because the company looks at data quarterly and makes sure it has processes in place to ensure equal pay for equal work.

Since its founding, Salesforce has focused on equality. “Think about our founding 20 years ago. They started with the 1-1-1 model, and that meant that 1 percent of the employees’ time, 1 percent of equity and 1 percent of the product went out to nonprofits to be free or deeply discounted to use,” Ford said. Over the last 20 years, Salesforce has given more than $240 million in grants, 3.5 million hours of community service and provided product donations for more than 39,000 nonprofits and education institutions.

Strategies for fostering inclusivity

Ford relies on the company’s employee resource groups to help drive equality inside Salesforce, including Abilityforce, a group for persons with disabilities, and Outforce, which focuses on LGBTQ issues. “We are financially empowering our employee resource groups all year,” Ford said.

One of the functions of the resource groups is philanthropy, and each employee resource group takes on a nonprofit to get involved with and champion. Employees who get 56 hours of paid volunteer time each year are encouraged to “go deep and long with causes impacting your community.”

And employees who are part of the “majority culture — that means white,” Ford said, or don’t feel like they have a resource group that reflects them, are encouraged to become an ally. “We want everyone to be an ally,” she said. “Allyship is actionable.”

Molly Ford of Salesforce at NRFtech 2019
Molly Ford on stage at NRFtech 2019

She used the illustration of BOLDforce, Salesforce’s black employee resource group. In 2016, approximately 80 employees (including a few white employees) participated in numerous Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations throughout San Francisco. After Ford’s office began educating employees on their roles as allies, participation increased; this year 1,700 employees showed up for MLK Day activities. “This is about allyship in action,” Ford said. “You show up.”

Ford noted that one of the things her office does is take practices and products that are already a part of Salesforce and “put equality on top of it.” At Salesforce events, for example, Ford will ask organizers about preferred pronoun stickers, gender neutral bathrooms and lactating rooms for parents. And, “no man-els,” Ford said — referring to all-male panels: Salesforce looks to make sure 30 percent of speakers at events are women and people of color.

She also uses one of Salesforce’s most popular platforms to educate employees on their role. Trailhead is an online learning platform that Salesforce provides its clients; Ford has adapted a version of the gamified platform to promote equality, giving employees the language and tools to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace (and earn badges for each unit they successfully complete).

“We’re not perfect at Salesforce, but we’re out there and we’re doing our best,” Ford said. “We evangelize equality because we want folks to come on this journey with us.”

The digital illustration of Ford’s session above is sponsored by Amazon Pay.

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