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Salesforce faces diversity audit from activist investors

CRM slinger set to be challenged on lack of progress at investor meeting

A shareholder activist group has found that tech sector workers from minority ethnic backgrounds are more than twice as likely to have experienced explicit racism than employees in other sectors.

The study by Tulipshare is timed to coincide with the Salesforce 2022 Annual Virtual Stockholders Meeting, set to take place today, where Tulipshare has succeeded in securing a proposal onto the ballot.

Tulipshare, whose strapline is 'rethinking ethical investments', is set to request that Salesforce commissions an independent audit of the company's impact on civil rights, equity, diversity, and inclusion. The request follows a series of anecdotal accounts of racially based microaggressions among Salesforce workers, together with a perceived lack of progress on a racially balanced workforce.

In its study, Tulipshare found about half of workers in tech said they had a manager who identifies as an ethnic minority, which is higher than the average across non-tech sectors, at just 28 percent.

However, 46 percent of tech employees surveyed admit to having experienced microaggressions because of their race, according to the study of 2,044 respondents carried out by Censuswide in the UK.

While only 15 percent of employees in non-tech sectors surveyed said they had experienced racism and microaggressions, 43 percent of workers in the tech sector said they had explicitly experienced racism.

In a statement, Antoine Argouges, chief executive and founder of Tulipshare, said: "It is one thing for tech companies to have commitments to hiring individuals from underrepresented groups, it is another to have a culture that promotes diversity, civil rights, and racial equity.

"Our campaign at Salesforce, and our most recent polling, has shown that tech companies in particular have a long way to go to address racial equity. Tech companies are some of the most innovative companies on the planet, so it is well within their ability to make tangible improvements on diversity. It is also a responsibility of investors to incite change, after all, it is linked to increased productivity, innovation and performance. We are hopeful that investors will side with our proposal on Thursday, and ask Salesforce to take more action on diversity and race."

Tulipshare argued 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 percent. By 2021, the figures had nudged to 5.1 percent Hispanic and 4.3 percent Black. In the United States, Hispanic people make up around 18.5 percent of the population, while Black people comprise around 13.4 percent, 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 the 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 as Tulipshare launched its campaign. ®

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