Friday 20 September 2019

Salesforce equality boss says tech must deliver on diversity

Ireland's growing tolerance and equality is a key reason why the US cloud computing giant remains so positive about its future as a major tech employer here

Salesforce chief equality officer Tony Prophet believes there is a diversity issue in the tech sector
Salesforce chief equality officer Tony Prophet believes there is a diversity issue in the tech sector
Samantha McCaughren

Samantha McCaughren

Major employer Salesforce views its future opportunities in Ireland very positively, not least due to the outcome of the marriage-equality vote in 2015, according to its chief equality officer Tony Prophet.

San Francisco-based Salesforce, one of the world's biggest cloud computing companies, last year created the role of chief equality officer to promote diversity across the group. It employs over 1,000 people here with a total workforce of 25,000 worldwide.

Ireland was the company's first hub outside the US. Prophet, a former Microsoft executive, who was in Dublin last week, said: "As a multinational company with many, many choices of where we can make investments we think very highly of Ireland." He also praised the country's "diversity of leadership" citing the fact that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is an openly gay man.

Prophet also said there were no "tolerable excuses" for a lack of diversity in the tech sector.

There have been a number of high-profile sexism scandals this year at Silicon Valley companies. At Google, an employee was fired after writing a memo which stated that women were less suited to tech for biological reasons, while Uber has also been embroiled in rows over sexism.

Prophet said that people in the tech sector know that there is a problem. "Where we're at today is a clear recognition - there are certain exceptions but it is almost universal - in the leadership of the tech industry that there is a problem with diversity and we need to do better as an industry."

He said that accepting that there is a problem with diversity came late in the evolution of the industry. "But no one is in denial. There are many companies like Salesforce being transparent about where we stand. But you can clearly see the industry has work to do. The industry is past the point where there are tolerable excuses."

Prophet said that Salesforce is trying to increase the representation of women through internships, boot camps and other non-traditional routes.

The company, which says its female workforce is just over 30pc of the total, does not have gender quotas. However, it does issue a score card to senior managers stating how they have fared on diversity each month. "We'll see where we go from there but we're beginning by being super transparent with a high level of scrutiny on a monthly basis about the people we are hiring."

Salesforce has also tackled the gender pay gap. It has carried out pay assessments of its workforce in both 2016 and 2017 after expanding by 7,000 people, mostly through acquisitions.

In 2016, around 6pc of employees required a salary adjustment, and roughly the same number of women and men were affected. Salesforce spent nearly $3m to eliminate "statistically significant" differences in pay. In 2017, 11pc of employees received adjustments following the second assessment covering race and ethnicity, and Salesforce again spent close to $3m to address any unexplained differences in pay.

Despite a changing political environment in the US, Prophet said that the company remains focused on its core values of trust, growth, innovation and equality. "We think about those values as being timeless and not being changed by any geopolitical events or any election anywhere in the world," he said.

Sunday Indo Business

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