Salesforce adds gender identity and pronoun data fields to promote inclusivity in tech
- Relatively small design decisions can have a major impact on trust, says Salesforce's Paula Goldman.
Salesforce has added new fields for gender identity and pronoun data across its product line, to help customers be more inclusive when it comes to collecting and using personal data.
The firm has launched two new fields across the Lead, Contact and Person Account objects on Salesforce. This opt-in addition lets customers and their users select, identify and capture pronoun options like he/him, she/her, they/them, and gender identity options like male, female, non-binary. Both fields also offer a ‘not listed’ option.
The fields are part of Salesforce’s core objects, which means they are populated through most of its products and available by default.
Organizations from airlines to hotels, restaurants to government agencies and healthcare companies all need this type of personal data to be able to serve their customers accurately. Standardizing the fields removes the need for admins to create custom versions, so companies can capture more accurate customer data in a more efficient way.
However, there is no pressure on customers to use the fields, as Salesforce's Chief Ethical and Humane Use Officer, Paula Goldman, explains:
We understand this data can be sensitive, so we've designed it with a walkthrough process for admins setting this up. There's guidance that says you don't always need to be collecting this data. In fact, there are some times when it may not be as appropriate to collect this data. Then admins would choose to include it or not include it, as they're setting up various instances of Salesforce.
Salesforce worked in close contact with its Inclusive Language Steering Committee to develop the gender inclusive features. This included members of Outforce, the company’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group, and Out and Equal, an Oakland-based organization working on LGBTQ+ workplace equality.
Working in collaboration with relevant groups is a standard approach at Salesforce’s Office of Ethical and Humane Use. One of its core pillars is ethics and inclusion in Salesforce products, so the Office works hard to ensure the products the firm delivers are inclusive and accessible to all. Goldman says:
A core way we do that is knowing that I as an individual and my team, we don't have all the answers, and nor necessarily do the teams that are working on these specific products. Participation and gaining insight from folks that live these experiences directly is very important. That's why we worked both with our Employee Resource Group to understand first of all - what's the problem; second - what's the right solution, what's the right language to learn, which of these terms are the most important to address.
Similarly with outside experts, if our whole goal is inclusion in our product, then we need to be inclusive in the processes that lead to these outcomes as well. We need to be bringing in this expertise and designing based on that expertise.
Using the right identifiers is a key part of building trust with users, but the standard options in data systems and CRM tools don’t always capture peoples’ full identity, or make it simple to do so. By making these new fields available, firms can use the gender inclusive features they prefer, and if they don’t need or want to collect gender-related data, they can bypass the features. Goldman notes:
For airlines or hotels or restaurants, which are giving personalized experiences to their customers, they don't want to be making a mistake on sensitive data like this. They want to be giving the correct experiences to their customers and serving them well. If they were to make an error on something like this, you can imagine how that would break trust.
Conversely, when people feel included, they’re more likely to trust the company they're interacting with. Goldman adds:
Study after study shows that when people trust companies, they're willing to share more data. That in turn feeds a more accurate and trusted personalized experience with the company, which feeds the sort of data they're willing to share.
At a time when first-party data is so crucial for companies wanting to serve and market in different segments, this model creates a virtuous loop where they're going to have more customer loyalty and trust, and be able to better serve their customers.
The new identity fields are part of Salesforce’s ongoing efforts to develop and promote ethical and inclusive technology. The firm had already made updates to its technical language in 2021 to address implicit bias and increase racial inclusivity. Goldman says:
We spent a long time remediating language in our code and our product around racial terms, like master and slave or blacklist and whitelist, and replacing those with more inclusive terms.
Ethics and inclusivity are embedded across product development at the company, she adds. For example, in the area of Artificial Intelligence, Salesforce aims to ensure that the data sets it’s using to train models are representative of the populations it’s serving and as free from bias as possible.
The firm also puts intentional defaults in its products to make them as inclusive as possible. During the pandemic, one of the products it was developing for vaccination campaigns offered default pick lists associated with that product type. Goldman adds:
We decided that we shouldn't make an address field mandatory for people that wanted to sign up for vaccine. Why? Because if you are unhoused, that might exclude you from getting access to the thing that you're signing up for. Oftentimes it's these small design decisions that can make a world of difference in how inclusive products are when they launch and are used in the world.
A positive move.