Benioff grades himself ‘between A and D’ on diversity, calls out Apple, Amazon and others

Benioff grades himself ‘between A and D’ on diversity, calls out Apple, Amazon and others

“I’m not going to give myself a D, because isn’t this amazing?” exclaimed Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, to great applause from the crowd.
He was referring to a Dreamforce panel between himself, Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) co-founder Parker Harris, and Re/code founder and editor Kara Swisher on efforts to achieve gender equality at the company, which previously admitted that only 15 percent of its leadership roles are filled by women.

Women make up about one-third of the company’s overall workforce, according to data released last year.
Earlier in the chat, Swisher joked that men tend to grade everything they do highly, and immediately pointed out the irony of two men sitting onstage discussing the condition of women in technology.

“It’s really interesting,” she said. “It does reflect the percentage of women.”
What followed was a mostly collegial, but incisive, dialogue on an issue that has increasingly bedeviled the tech industry. A lack of diversity — though in this case, the event mostly focused on the dearth of women in tech — has come under increasing scrutiny, in particular since Ellen Pao’s highly publicized discrimination suit against the investment firm Kleiner Perkins. (Pao lost on all counts and recently said she would not pursue an appeal.)
Earlier this year, Benioff announced that he sought to achieve equal pay for women at the 16,000-person software company. “My job is to make sure that women are treated 100 percent equally at Salesforce in pay, opportunity and advancement,” he told the Huffington Post in April.
But when Swisher steered the conversation to specific issues — like unconscious workplace bias or ‘micro-aggressions’ — both Salesforce executives tended to direct the conversation back to the role of leadership.

“We need more women in engineering,” said Harris, describing the frequently cited “pipeline” issue of women in technology careers. He also described leadership programs at the company focused on high-potential female talent.

“We’re in the transformation zone,” said Benioff. “When you have size and scale like we do, anything that requires transformation, requires the CEO to be there.”
Benioff also isn’t shy about calling out other companies for not doing more: “The Apple keynote last week was an example,” he said. “Where are the great female executives?”
He also referenced his earlier talk with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who stumbled on the question of whether or not Uber has a heart. “Whether it’s Uber, Amazon, Apple, Salesforce — what is that CEO’s priority?” Benioff said. “The leaders set the values, and we see that in the Amazon articles,” referring to the recent New York Times article on Amazon’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) harsh corporate culture.
As he has in the past, Benioff expressed regret that Salesforce ( NYSE: CRM) waited so long to address the issue, describing it as a crisis. “I wish we could rewind history,” he said. “We didn’t take this goal and that was wrong.”
He said that the company’s annual Dreamforce conference would include women-focused panels until “they are no longer needed,” but also pointed out that it could take many years to achieve full equality. “People are always overestimating what you can do in a year,” he said, stressing again Salesforce’s long-term commitment to advancing diversity in the industry.
However, perhaps even more illuminating than the conversation onstage was the packed audience: As attendees spilled out of the gender diversity panel, there were few men to be seen.


1 Comment
  • DrFerdowsi
    Posted at 10:57h, 24 September

    RT @michaelhallTM: Benioff grades himself ‘between A and D’ on diversity, calls out Apple, Amazon and others
    #digigrass #w3rtech http://t.c…