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Activist investors attempt to push through racial diversity probe at Salesforce

The move follows lack of progress in equality and two resignations, campaign group says

A group of activist investors is targeting Salesforce in an effort to force the SaaS CRM giant to become the subject of an independent investigation into its practices regarding racial equality.

Tulipshare, a platform for activist investors, has forced the proposal onto the ballot of Salesforce's next Annual General Meeting. It requests that Salesforce commission an independent audit of the company's impact on civil rights, equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Antoine Argouges, Tulipshare chief executive and founder said: "Increased diversity in the workplace is linked to increased productivity, innovation and performance. With recent events such as the murder of George Floyd and the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are hopeful that Salesforce will take our request seriously and work collaboratively with us to come to a resolution."

The group argues that although Salesforce had hired its first chief equality officer in 2016 and began releasing quarterly equality reports, the company's diversity numbers had not significantly improved. In 2015, Hispanic people represented 4 percent of the total workforce and Black people represented 2 per cent.

By 2021, the figures had nudged to 5.1 per cent Hispanic and 4.3 per cent Black. In the United States, Hispanic people make up around 18.5 per cent of the population, while Black people make up around 13.4 per cent, according to official estimates from 2021.

Tulipshare also criticized Salesforce's approach to its goal of having under-represented groups make up half of its workforce by 2023. The campaigners noted that in this case "under-represented groups" included women, black, Latinx, indigenous, multiracial, LGBTQ+ employees, people with disabilities, and veterans.

"Combining all of those employees' unique identities into one intersectional category allows Salesforce to seemingly reach its goal while still leaving particular groups underrepresented," Tulipshare said.

Meanwhile, the ambition to double representation of Black leaders by 2023 meant shifting from a very low base. Only 1.5 percent of the company's total leadership roles were held by Black employees in 2020.

Salesforce declined the opportunity to comment. In February last year, a Black former employee accused the global CRM software company of "countless microaggressions and inequity."

According to her LinkedIn page, Cynthia Perry worked as senior manager in design research and as lead design researcher for more than two years before leaving Salesforce. Posting her resignation letter on the social network for suits, she alleged she had been "gaslit, manipulated, bullied, and mostly unsupported" during her time at the company.

At the time, a Salesforce spokesperson told The Register: "For privacy reasons we can't comment on individual employee matters but equality is one of our highest values and we have been dedicated to its advancement both inside and outside of our company since we were founded almost 22 years ago."

In the redacted letter addressed to several members of the leadership team, Perry added: "Salesforce, for me, is not a safe place to come to work. It's not a place where I can be my full self."

Later, Vivianne Castillo, a manager of design research and innovation, resigned from Salesforce in a similar fashion.

Needless to say, Salesforce is not alone facing this issue. Other companies have similar ratios of Black employees, and Oracle has found itself on the end of a lawsuit from a shareholder who alleges the IT titan has not been truthful and honest in its efforts to create greater racial diversity within its workforce. ®

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