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Protocol | Enterprise

Salesforce’s equality struggles burst into the public

Former Salesforce senior manager Cynthia Perry tore into the company and its treatment of Black workers in a recent resignation letter.

Marc Benioff

Benioff has publicly championed Salesforce's diversity efforts, but employees tell a different story.

Photo: Jason Alden/Getty Images

Salesforce is facing fresh pressure over its diversity and inclusion efforts after a senior manager quit amid what she described as consistent discriminatory behavior.

In a resignation letter posted to LinkedIn earlier this month, Cynthia Perry wrote a searing take-down of the company's racial equality efforts, specifically the treatment of Black employees, at the massive software provider.

"I am leaving Salesforce because of countless microaggressions and inequity," she wrote. "I have been gaslit, manipulated, bullied, neglected, and mostly unsupported … the entire time I've been here."

In a statement, Salesforce said it couldn't comment directly on the allegations, citing employee privacy, but noted that 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."

But its struggles with race and equality aren't new. For one, its diversity statistics remain abysmal: Just 3.4% of its 49,000 workers identify as Black. That's up from prior years, and, to be fair, tech giants like Google and Facebook have equally low numbers. And employees have raised issues internally about the culture at the organization, which routinely touts itself as a leader on racial and gender equality, for years.

"These last few months have been incredibly emotionally and mentally exhausting," one employee wrote in an internal message board in November 2019, according to screenshots reviewed by Protocol. "I didn't realize how difficult, painful or draining it would be on my health to have to fight for equality and equity related answers and change at Salesforce."

But Perry's post is one of the most public criticisms of Salesforce to date. She did, however, praise Warmline, an employee advocacy program for women, Black, Indigenous and Latinx individuals.

"If not for Warmline ... I would have left months ago and in a deeply bitter place," Perry wrote.

Still, Perry echoes many of the same issues that current and former employees previously shared anonymously.

"Salesforce, for me, is not a safe place to come to work. It's not a place where i can be my full self. It's not a place where I have been invested in. It's not a place full of opportunity. It's not a place of Equality for All. It's not a place where well-being matters," she wrote in the letter posted on LinkedIn.

Like others, Perry said the efforts by Salesforce to market the company as a safe haven for workers of all stripes doesn't match the experience of actually being employed there.

"Words must be followed up with action. And if they can't be, then there should be no words," she wrote. "There is a really big gap between how Salesforce portrays itself and the lived experience I had working at this company."

The issue is one that's ultimately up to Benioff to fix, given he has for years claimed the company takes equality seriously. When he found out that many female employees made less than their male counterparts at Salesforce, for example, the company embarked on a $6 million pay equity effort. But it remains to be seen whether this issue rises to the same level of concern as shepherding through the mammoth $27.7 billion purchase of Slack.

Update: This article was updated at 4:45 p.m. PT on Feb. 8 to include Salesforce's comment, as well as to correct Perry's involvement with Warmline and what the program does.

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