HYDERABAD: Salesforce has been practicing four core values, Trust, Customer Success, Innovation and Equality for the past three years and trying to weave equality throughout the things the Salesforce do, Molly Q Ford, senior director of Global Equality programme at Salesforce said.
She said, the global leader in Customer Relationship Management (CRM), started this equality practice about three years ago. Excerpts from his interview at the Dream Force 2019.
Q: You have been talking quite a lot about equality. Where did this start because in Silicon Valley tech has been kind of infamous for. I mean not being the best of places when it comes to equality. So how did Salesforce kind of start upon this path and what was the genesis of this whole thing?
Molly Ford: I am going to actually take you back 20 years ago the starting of the company. You are going to notice with equality and quality. That is not how we saw it at that time, but 20 years ago when we founded the company Marc and Parker said the 111 model. Let us do a philanthropy pledge. 1% of our equity, employee time and 1% of our product would go to non-profits. So that is kind. So to think about giving back has always been who Salesforce is. So much so on your very first day at Salesforce, you go to a meeting. You get your laptop, you get your badge, you fill out your insurance forms and then they say leave everything and let us go and volunteer. Globally you go out and volunteer because we really want our employees to know. We are giving you permission to volunteer and then when you think about our current journey. So giving back always woven into. Like really the DNA of the starting of our company, but I would say about 2013, 2015, Marc would look upon the room and see us leaders and say where is my next generation of leaders. Where are my women leaders. Where is my youthful leaders. Where are they and so when he would have management meetings, he would then mandate and say I want each of you. I am challenging each of my leaders to come back next year and bring 10 high potential employees with you. Right and we talk about gender because gender is a global metric, but then in the US when we talk about race and ethnicity and he said bring back your 10 high potentials and really the lesson there is how far down in your organization did you have to go to find that. That talent. That undiscovered talent and then fast forward. You have heard about equal pay, where 2 women championed equal pay to Marc Benioff and said hey we think there is something going on here. We think we should look at that and that started to happen on I would say about 4 years ago and then 2016, we actually officially started the office of equality. Let me tell you what was happening at that time. We had already started to advocate for LGBTQ rights. We had already done equal pay as well as high potential development programs for women and really we saw in the summer that year of a lot of officer involved shootings of unarmed Black people in the United States and we started to hear that people of color were coming to the workplace hurt and not knowing how to deal with that and how to talk about that and I talk about my own personal journey. When there was a police night club shooting and you saw LGBTQ folks being killed for no reason. Then we come to work and I would say to my LGBTQ employee. How are you. Your community is impacted. Your community might be impacted, how do you feel about that. So Marc started going on this listening tour with his employees and he literally called me up on a Sunday and we had at the time of about 30,000 employees. I don’t know Marc personally and he said what your experience working is as Salesforce’s women of power. Tell me about your challenges, tell me about your journey and with that we started this conversation and of that the office of equality was born and that was June 2016 and I was supposed to take this as a 6 months project. Let us just see what we find, let us do an audit, let us come up with a couple of recommendations and one of the first things that we did was set out to do an executive search meaning how do we have someone at the helm. Who owns it, who is responsible for it. We started this search for our chief equality officer Tony Prophet and really we said. Again, we had already done LGBTQ Rights, Women’s Advocacy, but what was most important. Who owns it and how do we make it proactive. That is what was missing. We were reacting to issues and Marc was saying I don’t know the issues that are going to impact every community, but I want you the employees to be the voice of that. So we hired Tony in 2016 around September-October and we started to form the office of equality and we said okay how do we financially empower our employee resource groups. Most big companies have employee resource groups, but we believe at Salesforce we have something special. They are financially empowered to be on the frontlines of their community. We have Salesforce Women’s Network and then we have a gent force. 5 generations in the workforce and in the US we have South Asia force, we have Asia PAC force, we have BOLDforce and BOLDforce is an acronym for Black employees and we have Windforce and really the function of an employee resource group for us is these 3 things. Inclusion. Our employees get 56 hours a year to be out volunteering. We call it VTO, volunteer time off. For example, Salesforce Women’s Network adopted the girl scouts of the United States. So they are helping them with the STEM badge and training and education and saying this is how you could use Trailhead with your community. South Asia Force and the US adopted Be The Match. Be The Match is a bone marrow donor program because people of color are disproportionally impacted by not being able to find donors for blood and plasma borne diseases. Also BOLDforce. Our Black employee resource group. They adopted a school at Oakland across the bridge they say, where it is unresourceful and then when they show up to that school, they are doing a fund raiser to buy the kids iPads, they are teaching them coding, they are painting over graffiti. Whatever is necessary to help them and so that is what we are asking them to do. So inclusion, philanthropy and last but not the least professional development. So a layman circle. A meeting and what is special about is any and everyone is welcome. I went to my first Diwali celebration this year. I did not know what Diwali was. I was not aware. South Asia force said we would like for you to come, this is our spring festival. We want to introduce this to our culture and then you had Parker Harris our co-founder and Tony Prophet and Mark Hawkins and Amy Weaver out there. They said here is some food of mine and this is my thing. If there is food, I am coming right. They are like here is the curries and here is the dishes and I am like what is spicy. I am like I can handle it. What is spicy and what is sweet and they teaching is what does the saree mean. Why is this the tradition for my culture. What does this mean and so they are hosting events like that. Salesforce Women’s network does layman circle meetings where they have a different discussion topic and they do something called BAM and BAM means bring a man. So when they bring folks, they want you to come. So really our message there is every employee join an employee resource group. There are 12 different ones. Whether you see an affinity, you don’t have to. Nothing especially you have to and now 1 or 2 employees has joined an employee resource group and we are saying. Join us affinity to that group or join as an ally to this. So I am straight, identified straight, but I joined Outforce to be an ally to the LGBTQ folks and so at Salesforce we make allyship actionable. So we say well how do you do this and how do you get 45,000 employees to understand the notion of equality. We use our own platform Trailhead. So our free, online learning publicly available. Meaning they are bite sized. They are easy. 5 to 10 minutes and sometimes there is a video and at the end it is a quiz. It is a game of 5. You get badges, you get certified. So we use that same platform. So how do I get 45,000 employees to understand what allyship is. So we say here are our ally practices and more importantly here is how you do it. Allies ask, listen, show up, speak up. So you say ask. Ask people about their journey where you are from, where did you grow up and look for your similarities and things of interest. So you ask, listen. We say listen with empathy and respect and it does not mean we agree. We don’t necessarily want to argument about politics or debate. Here is my opinion and here is your opinion. We don’t agree, but we listen with empathy and respect and then we say show up. So I don’t know anything about Diwali. Should I go. Am I welcome. Will it be awkward to go. No. We are same. Show up. Best example of that is in San Francisco we did the Martin Luther King Junior parade. The first year, about 98 employees showed up in BOLDforce. Mostly Black employees. Once we started going on this ally journey, the guy who works for me said. I said where are we staging. Where are we meeting for the parade, like which conference room and he said no. I have run at the hanger behind the ballpark, behind AT&T Park and I said what do you mean you run at a hanger. He said we have 1700 employees signed up. We had 1200 show up in March that year and we were astounded and it is not 1200 Black employees. It is any and everyone. It is family, it is clean funds. So as and when you show up. Last, but not the least speak up. We talk about this day and age of hashtag Me Too and when you see something, say something. Speak up for people and allyship is not a big grand gestures. It could be something as small as if we are in a meeting and you noticed you are not talking and you are not getting the opportunity to speak up and no one will advocate for you and say hey everyone. I believe she has something to say. Let us hold off and let her speak. Right. So we are asking our employees to do that. So how do I do that. I introduce the language, I introduce the trail. I incentivize them to take the trail and the first module we launched in 30 days. First 30 days we said. So we are doing things like that to get our employees. If you get like how do you learn, how do you know the language, how do you get what we are doing.
Q: One of the important challenges is gender of age gap. So how is Salesforce addressing that. I read somewhere that you guys run a exercise and then you have kind of. We found maybe 100 of employees that you thought need to be?
Molly Ford: About 4 years ago, 2 women approached our CEO Marc Benioff and they said I think we have a problem and one of those women leaders had been promoted to be a general manager of a business and she said well when time came for bonus, I felt like we won as a team and we won equally. So I have every one of my managers or leaders equal bonus and she said the woman would say thank you, but the men would say. No. I want more and she said to her colleagues. Is this a pay. Have you ever negotiated for more and not even at the hiring. We are talking about even while you are already here and she said I don’t see the women doing what the men are doing. I think something is going on here and so 2 women went to Marc Benioff and said. We think we have an equal pay problem. We should look into it and there is a famous video where Marc says. No. I cannot believe that. That is not the kind of company I am running. Let us go do an audit and see. So really all companies have the data. Marc said let us look under the hood and see if there is a problem and see what we can do and we did discover that we had disparity of pay. So after 4 years, we do the audit. Every year, we found almost 10 million dollar discrepancy. Ironically that first year we actually paid up almost as many men as we did in women and that means equal pay for equal work. So it does not mean every software engineer makes the exact same amount, but we know there is a salary ban and no one should fall outside of that scope. Why is there any unexplained differences in this person’s pay or that person’s pay and that audit was based of things that we felt like were not subjective. So not necessarily tenure. You had to be in good standing, but we said are you a people manager or not. What is your tenure with the company. What is your location geography wise and so and notice there our message is not. Women who did not negotiate right. You did not do something right. We are saying companies have the responsibility to make it right.
Q: It is not the individual responsibility to ask for more?
Molly Ford: Right.
Q: Salesforce is a global organization. So do you face any challenges when you are implementing these same policies across geographies because there are cultural differences and some things are not viewed the same way they are viewed in the US. So do you face these challenges when you are implementing these policies?
Molly Ford: So here is what. We don’t try to be the global expert. I go to the local office and say what are your challenges. What are you doing. So for example in Hyderabad, we said what is the safest and most effective way for the company to participate in the pride parade. What makes sense for us as a company right or Singapore. We say okay we will have a celebration in the office, not in the streets and then we say what are the things we can advocate for and really the first question we ask ourselves is do we have employees in that location and then second how are our employees impacted. That is really the question we ask ourselves. How are employees impacted. Is this something they want to raise, is this something they want to discuss. When marriage equality came on the ballot in Australia, we said okay. What is our responsibilities of the company. Let us educate our employees, let us make sure they know about voting, let us make sure they know that employees get time off to go vote that day and that is what we felt like where is our responsibility here in just educating and empowering our employees. Not telling them where to vote, how to vote. Right just saying you are empowered. You have time off, you have this permission and so really when we think about the global equality lens, we really lean on our employee resource groups in those areas.
Q: What are some of the metrics, the numbers that you track kind of. The things are improving. How do you measure those things?
Molly Ford: So the one thing that I say is the hardest thing to measure is our culture of allies because that is super important to us in terms of how do we build a company where everyone feels they can bring here up and accept to work, whether it is about your age, your sexual identity or your religion. How can you show up in the workplace and that is what we are really trying to build and so that one I don’t have a number for, but we do have global metrics and data. Just last week, we published our diversity stats on Equality.com and that showed us that we are 33% women. That number is up year over year. We have a lot of work to do. That number looks very much like most of our global peers, but it is still not good enough. Right. It is just not good enough to be 33% women and we did announce a goal that would really impact us specific to the US. We said by the year 2023, we want 50% of our population to be women or underrepresented minorities. Underrepresented minorities are US metric of race and ethnicity, which is Black, Latinx or Hispanic or indigenous for 2 or more races. So that is our goal here in the US because we are not tracking race in Europe or in Asia. So that is our metric. So we have got a lot of work to do.
Q: Apart from the diversity goal, are there any other broad vision statements that Salesforce has in terms of equality and where do you want to be in say 5 years. 2023, 2024?
Molly Ford: Yes. Just like what Marc said. We believe businesses are a platform for change. So we want to use Salesforce and motivate our employees as well as engage our customers and we say our aspiration is hashtag equality for all. Now that is super aspirational, but we are saying how do we make Salesforce a best place to work and destination. Whether you are working parent, a person with disability. We also are going to focus next year on persons with disability. So we know that people with disability are the most underemployed generation of folks. So how do we help them get jobs. We started a program [email protected] So meaning if you are autistic, what is your interview experience. As a manager, do I know how to interview a candidate that might be autistic and what is the entry way for them. You are going to see us do a lot with opportunity to youth. Meaning those are folks that may not have a traditional path of college, but how do we get them engaged with tech and you are going to see us use Trailhead for that. Trailhead really. Online learning free. Use it at your own time, use it at home, how do we skill you up. You are going to really see us focus on that Salesforce economy and we can give them some stats on Salesforce economy and jobs for the future and how Salesforce will be the job of the future. So think about it. If I am Uber. If Uber has to hire someone to run their Salesforce deployment. So that is where we really see like the future is really going there in terms of jobs.