Sales­force’s Be­nioff says racial par­ity in tech a must

‘Tak­ing on inequal­ity is your re­spon­si­bil­ity as a leader,’ CEO says

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Jes­sica Guynn @jguynn USA TO­DAY

Busi­ness soft­ware com­pany Sales­force.com will name a chief equal­ity of­fi­cer who will re­port to CEO Marc Be­nioff, who called on the tech in­dus­try to strive for “greater racial equal­ity.”

The an­nounce­ment, made by Be­nioff dur­ing an on­stage in­ter­view at the an­nual TechCrunch Dis­rupt con­fer­ence in San Fran­cisco, re­flects the in­creas­ing em­pha­sis be­ing placed on di­ver­sity ef­forts in the Sil­i­con Val­ley ex­ec­u­tive suite. Be­nioff, a well-known phi­lan­thropist, is an in­flu­en­tial leader in Sil­i­con Val­ley.

“Tak­ing on inequal­ity is your re­spon­si­bil­ity as a leader,” Be­nioff said.

Be­nioff is one of a grow­ing num­ber of tech­nol­ogy chief ex­ec­u­tives who have staked their lead­er­ship on im­prov­ing the lop­sided de­mo­graph­ics of the tech in­dus­try. That kind of in­vest­ment from the top is cru­cial to the suc­cess of di­ver­sity ef­forts, con­sul­tants say.

Sales­force.com has to “own these is­sues, specif­i­cally so that, on a reg­u­lar day-to-day ba­sis, this is in my mind, and that I know that I haven’t just del­e­gated it down to the func­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions,” Be­nioff said.

Be­nioff did not say who would be tapped as chief equal­ity of­fi­cer nor what re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that per­son would have. The ap­point­ment is ex­pected next week. A com­pany spokes­woman de­clined to com­ment.

Sales­force.com suf­fers from the same lack of di­ver­sity as the rest of Sil­i­con Val­ley tech com­pa­nies. At Sales­force, seven out of 10 em­ploy­ees and eight out of 10 se­nior lead­ers around the globe are men. Like other ma­jor tech com­pa­nies, gen­der is not the only gap fac­ing Sales­force.com. In the U.S., 2% of Sales­force em­ploy­ees are African Amer­i­can and 4% are His­panic.

Sales­force.com came un­der fire last year from peo­ple of color for fo­cus­ing di­ver­sity ef­forts on clos­ing the gen­der gap. Tues­day, Be­nioff made a strong state­ment on the im­por­tance of clos­ing the racial gap in tech.

“I be­lieve that we have to have greater racial equal­ity in our in­dus­try,” Be­nioff said. “We have to move our stan­dards up. We have to move the num­bers up.”

STEVE JEN­NINGS, GETTY IM­AGES FOR TECHCRUNCH

“We have to move our stan­dards up,” Sales­force.com CEO Marc Be­nioff says.

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