Salesforce reminds TrailheadDX of equality battles through the eyes of Betty Reid-Soskin

Denis Pombriant Profile picture for user denis_pombriant March 29, 2018
Equality matters at Salesforce and the company reminded its developers of that with a conversation between Tony Prophet and Betty Reid-Soskin

Betty Reid-Soskin
Betty Reid-Soskin and Tony Prophet

Salesforce has been focused on a message of human empowerment for a long time. It has been an integral part of company DNA since its founding embodies in the company's embrace of the 1:1:1 model of philanthropy in which it gives one percent of its employee time to volunteer efforts, one percent of its stock, and one percent of its products to charitable causes. Non-profits use the technology free of charge, for instance, and over nearly two decades, the company has donated millions of hours of labor and millions of dollars to charitable efforts.

Four governing principles

But empowerment made a broader footprint recently when the company expressed its four governing principles:

  1. Trust
  2. Growth
  3. Innovation, and
  4. Equality

Simply put trust derives from openness and transparency, growth refers to its own product and revenue growth as well as enabling customers to do the same. For Salesforce innovation applies to its own technological evolution as well as what it enables for customers and equality is expressed in a belief in the worth of each person in and outside of the company.

Benioff's track record

As an example of equality, consider CEO Marc Benioff’s public embrace of support for the LGBTQ community. Though for all intents this is something Benioff feels in his bones, it’s also good business. He believes that people do their best work when they are enabled to be their authentic selves not subject to strictures imposed from outside. Benioff has gone toe to toe with state governors over restrictive laws affecting the LGBT community and refused to embrace cultures that relegate some people, potentially also employees, to second-class status. He’s pulled major projects from restrictive jurisdictions effectively walking his talk.

The emphasis on empowering people was on full display at TrailheaDX the recent Salesforce developers’ conference in San Francisco in what could be seen as a multi-dimensional matrix.

Empowerment on display at TrailheadDX

For developers, Salesforce Trailhead is a gamified learning environment that teaches and certifies people in the skills they need to be successful in companies that use Salesforce' technology. Trailhead teaches coding to coders and drag and drop development techniques to others beginning with system administrators. It’s expected that the Salesforce economy will generate more than 3 million jobs and $1 trillion in GDP activity by the 2020’s, so there’s plenty of justification for it.

But on a human level, the company is also touting how Trailhead can provide the foundation for a 21st-century middle-class existence. At TrailheaDX it showcased individuals who have gone through the training sequence to develop skills and got good paying jobs.

Beyond this, Salesforce has been a champion of equal pay for equal work and gender equality is a bedrock principle. Over the last few years, the company self-audited its 30,000 member workforce and discovered a small pay gap between men and women, then spent nearly $6 million to correct the imbalance. And of course, sexual harassment is simply not tolerated. In a fireside chat with co-founder and CTO Parker Harris Benioff said,

There are some lines that are grey but others that shouldn’t be and this is one.

He related how the company has terminated individuals who have gotten too close to the line.

Perhaps the best example of the many forms of empowerment that TrailheaDX showcased was the keynote with Tony Prophet, the chief equality officer.

Bring on Betty

Prophet interviewed Betty Reid-Soskin who, at 96, is the oldest full-time US Park Ranger. She works at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California where she provides eyewitness accounts of a segregated society in the middle of the Second World War. For instance, during the war, she worked as a file clerk for the Boilermakers Union A-36 a Jim Crow union-auxiliary—blacks weren’t allowed to join the main union.

Reid-Soskin’s long career has been punctuated by many ups and downs, but she’ll tell you that not all of them stem from being black and a woman. She doesn’t work for Salesforce but she eloquently provides a background for today as we aim toward a brighter future. She was born in 1921 and knew her great-grandmother who was born in 1846, into slavery. After the war she and her husband moved to Walnut Creek where her children could access better public schools. But the Reids were subject to death threats and significant racism.

Reid-Soskin became politically active and was a well-known songwriter in the Civil Rights movement. Later she became involved in planning and developing a park to memorialize the role of women on the home front in the war, efforts that directly contributed to establishing the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in 2000.

My take

Salesforce has a way of raising awareness without preaching and putting Reid-Soskin in front of the attendees is one such way. Letting those with experience tell their stories is always powerful.

The impression one gets is that Salesforce' four foundational attributes, trust, growth, innovation, and equality, are well chosen. More than this, especially in the current political environment, this orientation is liable to make you wonder what the world might be like if we all added these principles to our lives. It’s an admittedly simplistic thing to advocate but it’s also hard to argue with the success this company has realized. As Benioff might say - it's good for everyone and it's good for business.

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