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Salesforce GC Amy Weaver on diversity, equality, and culture

In the latest in our Tech Talks series, Thomson Reuters Asif Alam talks to Amy Weaver, Salesforce President & General Counsel, about diversity, equality, and culture.

“Corporations are realizing the power of their platform and the responsibility that comes with that. It’s a responsibility to do well by their communities; it’s a responsibility to advocate for equality.” –Amy Weaver

In 2013, Salesforce bought a public company called ExactTarget; and through that acquisition, became the largest tech employer in Indiana. And Indianapolis is still their second largest hub largest hub outside of San Francisco.

AMY WEAVER: So, about three years ago we started hearing from employees in Indianapolis, from one of our employee resource groups called Outforce. And they were very concerned that there was potential legislation that was going to have a discriminatory impact on the LGBT community.

And I have to say, the law really wasn’t on our radar screen, and when it passed this group did an incredible job of raising it up to Marc Benioff’s attention, to my attention, to other executives and really demanding that we take a stand.

So, one night Marc went out on Twitter and said that if this law weren’t amended we would consider pulling out of the State of Indiana. And we worked with an incredible group of other companies ‑‑ Eli Lilly, Dow, even the NCAA got involved ‑‑ to work with legislators and come up with an amendment. And within one week we were standing at the Indiana State Capitol, this gorgeous building right in downtown Indianapolis and watching an amendment they passed that was going to protect LGBT rights.

ASIF ALAM: Excellent. And another area where I’ve seen Salesforce up right in the center is equality.

AMY WEAVER: So, gender pay equality has been a huge initiative for Salesforce, and it really started two or three years ago when two of our executives ‑‑ Cindy Robbins and Leyla Seka ‑‑ went to a meeting with Marc and really challenged him in this area and said that they thought that there could be an issue and wanted him to look into it.

So, Marc agreed to do a study. Now, I’ll tell you, he probably agreed because he didn’t think there was going to be an issue. But sure enough, we looked into it and there was a discrepancy. It affected about six percent of employees with men and women. And we realized after doing that that we were going to have to pay out about three million dollars in adjustments.

But you know, looking at a study like this you can’t just do it once and assume everything is fixed. So, a year later we did the study again, we really refined our methodology; and sure enough, we owed another three million dollars. So, we hadn’t really gone into the root of it.

And we’re continuing to look at this issue, and every year it’s starting to get a little bit smaller, especially compared to our employee base. We have to really pay attention when we acquire companies, because when you acquire a company you acquire their pay practices as well. But it’s something that we’re really dedicated to, and Marc has done a great job in challenging other companies and other CEOs to step up and do the same surveys at their companies.

Thomson Reuters Asif Alam sits down with Salesforce’s Amy Weaver.

ASIF ALAM: I think Marc and Salesforce have done a tremendous job around equality, around D&I. In the world we are living in right now, what role do you see for a corporation like Salesforce, new corporations?

AMY WEAVER: (It’s) been incredible to watch over the last three or four years ‑‑ and I think Indiana was a real starting point ‑‑ to see corporations realize the power of their platform and really the responsibility that comes with that. It’s a responsibility to do well by their communities, it’s a responsibility to advocate for equality. And all of this, ultimately, I think leads to stronger companies and better returns for our shareholders.

ASIF ALAM: Absolutely. And I think you guys did not stop in Indiana, there are other states also like Georgia.

AMY WEAVER: So, the year after we were so active in Indiana, Georgia also was considering legislation that we were very concerned about. And we worked very closely in Georgia; and the end of it, we were really thrilled to see that the governor vetoed the legislation. Of course, the week that that was happening, North Carolina came out with legislation that was even more concerning.

But what was really interesting to see and very gratifying is other companies really joining their voices. PayPal is a great example; they took a huge leadership role in North Carolina. Last year, IBM really leaned in and was very vocal in Texas in protecting people’s rights. So, it’s great ‑‑ and like I said, very gratifying ‑‑ to see other companies joining in with Salesforce.

We were recently selected by Fortune magazine as the number one best place to work in America, which was a real honor. And I think all of that really goes back to how Salesforce was founded, and it was founded around this view of philanthropy.

And we call it the 1‑1‑1 model. So, when Marc and Parker and their colleagues formed the company, they committed that one percent of the company’s equity, one percent employee time and one percent of products would be given to charitable causes.

Now, at the time, that wasn’t that big of a commitment. There were four employees, there was no product and the equity wasn’t worth anything. But over time, that has grown to hundreds of millions of dollars going to charities including a real focus on the public education and public schools in San Francisco and Oakland. More than three million employee hours given in volunteer time, and we have over 36,000 nonprofits that are running on Salesforce either free or for discounted amounts.

I think that focus on philanthropy just from day one is something that’s affected the culture for the last 19 years.  It attracts people who that matters to and it keeps people here.

ASIF ALAM: So, with all this, what is the culture like? How is it to work at Salesforce? And how do you see the evolving culture at Salesforce.

AMY WEAVER: Well, I think the key is “evolving.” Everything at Salesforce is evolving. I joined four and a half years ago, there were about 10,000 employees and we had just had the largest ever acquisition of ExactTarget in Indiana. Four and a half years later, we have over 30,000 employees, we’ve done another 25 acquisitions.  We’ve moved into areas I never saw coming like artificial intelligence, analytics.  And it’s just a constant state of innovation, and really just an exciting place to be.

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