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Investment firm takes Salesforce to task for lack of racial diversity

Retail investment platform Tulipshare is campaigning to hold Salesforce to account for its lack of racial diversity

Retail investment firm Tulipshare has had a proposal calling for an independent audit of racial equity at Salesforce rejected at the software-as-a-service supplier’s annual general meeting.

Tulipshare has issued a statement in which it says: “Despite a target to have a workforce made up of 50% of under-represented groups by next year, two in five employees [of Salesforce] are white. Since 2015, the company has only increased its percentage of Hispanic employees by 1.1%, and of black employees by 2.3%. In 2021 4.3% of Salesforce’s US employees were black.”

The investment platform aims to combine the collective voting powers of individual retail investors to have greater sway at capitalist company AGMs.

It claimed, in its proposal to the Salesforce AGM, that “by bundling ‘women, black, Latinx, indigenous, multiracial, LGBTQ+ employees, people with disabilities, and veterans’ together to form the company’s definition of ‘under-represented groups’, the company can continue to mask its legacy on race”.

In its statement, Tulipshare cited the resignation of two two black women in prominent positions from Salesforce, citing a “toxic environment” and “disingenuous marketing around equality”. These were Cynthia Perry, a former senior manager of research in business technology at Salesforce, and Vivianne Castillo, a manager of design research and innovation at the company.

Antoine Argouges, CEO and founder of Tulipshare, said: “Whilst we are disappointed that our proposal did not pass today [9 June], this vote was just the beginning in the fight for racial equity in tech. Polling we conducted for this campaign found that someone is more than twice as likely to experience racism if they work in tech. Tech companies need to urgently address racism and microaggressions in the workplace – and shareholders must realise their potential to influence racial equity in society.

“Salesforce has not yet disclosed the full outcome of the vote, but once the results are published, we will consider our options for continuing the fight for racial equity at Salesforce.”

Salesforce is well known in the IT industry for presenting itself as progressive and a trailblazer for diversity and inclusion. It appointed its first chief equality officer, Tony Prophet, in 2016. He retired in July 2021. The supplier provides a quarterly update on its progress on equality.

It is not alone among Silicon Valley companies that present an image of being on the right side of history, but whose record of employing black people falls short. Workday admitted, at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, that black workers made up less than 3% of its workforce, despite 13% of the US population being African American.

The HR software-as-a-service supplier pledged to do better and was reporting some progress in mid-2021, although still only 2.8% of its total US workforce was black.

Tulipshare cited, in its statement about the vote at the Salesforce AGM, Perry’s 2021 resignation post on LinkedIn, in which said she had “experienced countless microaggressions and inequity during my time at Salesforce”.

In her resignation letter, posted on LinkedIn, Castillo wrote: “I was originally drawn to Salesforce for a variety of reasons, but was sold on their value of equality. I quickly learned that what has been marketed externally is far from the reality of how that value plays out internally.”

Tulipshare said in its statement: “Our approach to improving diversity and inclusion within Salesforce is the most productive first step that we can take as activist investors – to request an independent third-party audit with input from civil rights organisations and communities wherein Salesforce operates. This type of report will provide greater transparency into diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) metrics at Salesforce and how they can be improved.”

A Salesforce spokesperson said: “Equality is a long-standing core value at Salesforce, and we are continuously evaluating ways to improve and accelerate progress against our equality goals. Transparency and accountability are critical in our path forward, and we will continue to work with leading third parties to inform our strategy and programmes, as well as report on our progress through our quarterly and annual updates.”

Read more about Salesforce and its social justice rhetoric

Read more on Diversity in IT

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