Salesforce next week will announce its first chief equality officer, reporting directly to chairman and CEO Marc Benioff, he said this morning during a Q&A at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco. Benioff restated at length his signature message of corporate responsibility for fighting inequality and for “improving the world,” several times drawing applause from a crowded auditorium.
Benioff also revealed some details about Einstein, the AI-based offering set to debut at the annual Dreamforce users’ conference next month in San Francisco.
The company’s newest C-level officer “will be reporting directly to me, to own these issues, so that on a day-to-day basis this is in my mind and I know I haven’t just delegated it down,” Benioff said.
He referred to Salesforce’s recent move to equalize salaries for men and women in the company, noting that gender inequality remains a significant problem in technology. To combat it, “your women employees have to stand up, your male employees have to stand up, and people have to say ‘I fight for equality.’ If you’re going to fight against inequality, then you have to fight for equality.”
In the fight for LGBTQ equality nationwide, “there’s a lot of shit going on out there,” Benioff said. “It doesn’t seem possible here in San Francisco, but I can tell you you’ve got a set of people who have a lot of hate in their hearts. They’re not the ‘summer of love’ people of San Francisco, there’s no tie-dye, no LSD. . . . If you don’t take a stand, there are lot of people, like (Republican vice presidential nominee) Mike Pence, who are going to do some very bad things to people we love, and some of those people are my employees.”
Salesforce has given millions of dollars to public schools and has worked to overturn anti-LGBTQ laws in Indiana, Georgia and North Carolina. Through the company’s “1-1-1” program — under which it contributes one percent of its equity, one percent of its profit and one percent of its employees’ time to a non-profit foundation — it has provided nearly 2 million hours of volunteer work and this year has given out $130 million in grants, with $140 million as the target for next year, Benioff said. More than 1,000 other companies have implemented a similar program, he said.
And Benioff urged more tech companies to get on board.
“Silicon Valley doesn’t have to be stingy, like it traditionally has been,” he said. “Entrepreneurs have traditionally hoarded their wealth. Companies have not given back. That has to change. You have to do one thing. Personal action is the most important thing. . . . I strongly believe the business of business is to improve the state of the world.”
In the interview’s last few minutes, Benioff teased ahead to Einstein, the AI-based offering set to debut at Dreamforce.
“We’ve spent $650 million buying a dozen AI companies, machine-learning companies, deep-learning companies, and through that we’ve been able to stitch together a platform called Einstein,” he said. From his description, Einstein sounds like a technology that will be incorporated into the various Salesforce products, rather than a standalone product in itself.
“You’ll see a Sales Cloud Einstein — a whole new way to look at sales where the software helps you be your very best salesperson,” he said. “You’ll see a Service Cloud Einstein, a Marketing Cloud Einstein and an Analytics Cloud Einstein.”
Asked at the interview’s very end to give his take on the new iPhone 7, Benioff demurred, though implying he had strong feelings about the device. “This industry owes a lot to Steve Jobs,” he said. “He left an incredible legacy of technology and innovation.”
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