Success Stories

Tech company benefits from being more inclusive


Marc Benioff is co-CEO of the billion-dollar tech company Salesforce and author of the book Trailblazer: The Power of Business as the Greatest Platform for Change. Back in 2015, he could see that there were more male than female employees at Salesforce, but that was expected; there are also far fewer female engineers than male engineers in Silicon Valley. However, he also noticed that women were less likely to stay at Salesforce and were not moving into leadership roles to the same extent as men were. One day, during a candid conversation with a female leader, Benioff asked what more he could be doing for women at Salesforce. She responded, “Well, you could pay them equally.”

What? That was a surprise. He’d assumed that women at his company were paid equally, but when he dug into the data, he found that they were not. Women at Salesforce were paid less than men, despite their equal performance. That was a huge blow to Benioff. Nearly all people have a need to believe that the world is fair; it’s called the just-world hypothesis. The need is so strong that people are more likely to blame victims for their fate than accept that bad things can happen to good people. People are especially likely to derogate victims of injustice when they think that those victims do not have the power to resolve the injustice. But it was Benioff’s company. He could actually change things if injustice was present! So he set forward to get it done…

Not only did he adjust all salaries at Salesforce to ensure equal pay, but he went on a quest to learn more about the other things he didn’t know about employees’ experiences at Salesforce.

He talked with people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, attended employee resource group meetings and tried to increase his understanding of unconscious bias by reading the latest research on the topic. Over time, those conscious actions, such as trying to understand how others might experience daily life at Salesforce, unconsciously led him to “inclusify.” Now it’s natural – every decision he makes focuses on bringing people together. He explains that equality is contagious. If you believe in equality for women, how can you not do the same for people of color, those with disabilities or individuals for the LGBTQ community?

Thanks to the value the company places on appreciating unique contributions and on creating belonging, Salesforce is consistently voted one of the most innovative companies in the United States, as well as one of the best places to work, and Benioff rates among the top CEOs. The company has also achieved astronomical growth (30 percent a year) with a 2019 fiscal year forecast of $13.1 billion in revenue.


From Inclusify by Stefanie K. Johnson. Copyright (c) 2020 by Stefanie K. Johnson. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

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