Women in tech: how Salesforce is leading the way
By John Ross
Misogyny in the workplace is dying a slow death. Organizations like Salesforce are pioneering ways of thinking to help get women in technology, break down pay barriers, and generally normalize successful women in technology and business.
So what exactly is Salesforce doing to lead the way? What can businesses learn from them about equality, becoming more representative, and closing the pay gap?
According to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute, countries which discourage women’s participation in the workforce could increase their GDP if they took measures to become more inclusive.
On a basic level, women now make up over half of the population, so through exclusion in the workplace, businesses are closing off a huge portion of the talent pool.
On a larger scale, of the 50 CEOs hired by Fortune 500 companies in 2016, none were female. Women are, in fact, underrepresented at every level of the corporate pipeline. Interestingly, lower level positions accommodate women better than senior positions.
For women in positions of power, there are many factors holding them back. According to Forbes, within Venture Capital firms, only 7% of managing directors are female. Female-founded Inc. 500|5000 firms are dramatically less likely to raise equity than male-founded companies, with 14.4% success for men compared to 3.6% for women.
On the contrary, ‘venture capital firms with female partners are 2.5 times more likely to invest in companies with women on the management team’.
One of the worst represented industries is technology. Globally, women make up less than 20% of the tech industry. The percentage of computing occupations held by women has been declining since 1991.
At Google, women make up 30% of the workforce, with just 17% in technology positions. Over at Twitter, the general workforce split is close to 50/50 – but only 10% of female employees are in technology roles.
The retention rate for women is far lower in tech jobs too. Quitting rates average at a staggering 41% for women and 17% for men. Although the reasons behind this are complex, some attribute it to trends such as the ‘Brogrammer’.
Research also shows that women are actively aiming for lower pay than men.
In the UK, only 15% of women make up computing graduates, far lower than occupations in other STEM industries. Tech entrepreneur and owner of Koru Kids, Rachel Carrell, believes that the gap starts in high school, with more boys choosing maths and sciences. “That flows through university and into the workplace,” she said.
Research from McKinsey & Company argues these attitudes won’t shift for 100 years based on the granular changes that need to be made over time. But why is the gender disparity so deep?
Unconscious bias is often attributed to inequality, not just for gender, but also social class, race and sexual orientation. It’s a subconscious, snap judgment the brain makes based on societal stereotypes, supporting the argument that the only solution is time to breed out bad attitudes.
A report published by NCWIT describes ‘stereotype threat’, the fear that actions may reinforce negative attributes attached to stereotypes about identity. This can create anxiety in the workplace and consequently weaken performance or result in low retention.
Triggers can include a homogeneous interview team, physical features in the work environment that associated with male stereotypes such as geeky/sports objects and calling attention to gender in the interview/evaluation process. Once these behaviors are identified, they’re much easier to notice and address.
Corporate initiatives are one of the most powerful ways to affect major change for women in technology. Salesforce is a great example of an equality pioneer.
Statistics show their efforts are actually working. According to our latest Salesforce salary survey, 33% of respondents were women, an increase of 6% from the previous year and above the industry average. In the US, women contribute 40% to their workforce.
What is Salesforce doing to be more inclusive and set a better example for business?
Raising awareness for diversity
Salesforce is active in raising awareness for diversity, be that of women or other minorities.
The company organized 37 Pride marches in 2017 and proudly marched their staff and mascots along the way. This was not only a significant financial investment but also puts them in the firing line for political debate, demonstrating the value they place on diversity.
Photo credit: Salesforce
Beyond this, Salesforce uses social media to spread the message of #EquallityForAll. They encourage their community, the Salesforce Ohana, to actively raise awareness of the issue. It’s a prime example of a corporate entity using their reach to spread an issue which has a direct social effect.
Moreover, Salesforce has appointed their first Chief Equality Officer, Tony Prophet. This appointment helps keep diversity in the public eye and ensures Salesforce is setting an example. Prophet says that “businesses need to focus on closing the Equality gap with the same energy put into creating new products and markets”.
Eliminating the pay gap
In 2015, Salesforce invested around $3 million into reviewing, analyzing, and amending salaries based on a fair distribution. Their analysis looked to find unjustified pay discrepancies and correct them. Their focus was closing the gender pay gap between men and women in technology, something which is considered a significant problem.
Furthermore, this huge investment was not a PR stunt. Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff pledged to make equal pay an ongoing promise. In 2017, after acquiring new business, Salesforce reviewed their pay and adjusted it further with increased investment on their part.
This continued investment is a big commitment for Salesforce and shows how highly they value this initiative.
Creating an open forum
Salesforce isn’t afraid of making investments in equality. Currently, they support 9 separate diversity networks directly linking back to their brand. The first of these was the Women’s Network which is a community helping to raise awareness of Gender equality. Others include Outforce, organizers of many US Pride marches, and AbilityForce, an ability inclusion forum.
Along with raising awareness and eliminating prejudice in their organization, giving people a platform to actively curate change is a significant corporate investment.
What you can do for women in tech
Both as an employee or employer, there are things you can do to improve inclusion in the workplace even if you don’t have the financial backing that Salesforce does.
Spread the word
Stigma is deeply embedded into how we operate as a society and, sometimes, underrepresentation happens somewhat innocently, or at least subconsciously.
Conversation can eliminate ignorance. Whatever your professional platform, share insights on the changes in the industry by promoting positive change that your seen happening. Share articles with data, join the hashtags on social media and keep inclusion in the forefront of people’s minds.
Be critical about your own attitudes
People are susceptible to unconscious bias. Be critical of your own attitudes at work. Diversity in technology has proven to improve design, testing and general output. A diverse work environment encourages different ways of thinking and means businesses aren’t orientated towards just a male demographic, whether that’s subconscious or not.
As an employer, ensure you help create a gender neutral work environment. This can be achieved by creating an open company culture and avoiding gender orientated work initiatives or social situations. For instance, are post-work events planned to cater for men and women alike? Do employee awards align with the needs of everyone on your team?
During any hiring process, be critical of your own approach and check yourself for your own bias. It’s the responsibility of the interviewer to ‘do a better job of recognizing the constraints of the interview process and the dangers of prejudging candidates or looking at superficialities’. Don’t be too quick to judge and keep in mind that different people present themselves in different ways. These points are crucial when trying to create a fair interview environment.
As an employee, you also have a responsibility to create cultural shifts within your work life. When working in a team, consider if you are attempting to represent genders equally. Beyond being a voice for women in technology and diversity as a whole, constantly check your own bias in the work environment.