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Love Unites Us All at Sydney Mardi Gras 2022

Salesforce’s Outforce ANZ Treasurer and Mardi Gras co-lead Jacob Hkeik, along with members of Outforce, share why being part of an equality group adds incredible value to workplace culture, community and self.

If someone had told me seven years ago that I would be walking around the Sydney CBD to a Mardi Gras rehearsal wearing a t-shirt with the word ‘love’ in rainbow colours on it, I wouldn’t have believed them. 

The me seven years ago would have packed another shirt to change into. The me seven years ago would have hidden my authentic self — afraid to be judged because of my sexuality. 

Because it was only seven years ago when former colleagues decided not to associate with me in the office when they found out I was gay. 

Seven years on and a lot has changed — thankfully for me and the wider LGBTQI+ community. I’m fortunate enough to work in a team and for a company that champions diversity in all its rainbow and diverse colours. But it’s not the case for everyone. Given that 61% of LGBTQI+ Australians are not out at work, it’s never been more important for businesses to create safe spaces through equality groups and participate in events like Mardi Gras for people to feel comfortable to be their true selves at work.

Showing up as Team Pride

Truth be told, it took me a decade until I felt comfortable to attend Sydney’s Mardi Gras in person — and to finally understand the parade’s significance for the LGBTIQ+ community in its diverse, inclusive and intersectional glory. I was inspired by people in the community and corporate floats and wanted to learn more, get involved and even work for the organisations someday. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I joined Salesforce.

These days I know exactly what to think about Mardi Gras and why it’s important to support it each year — the parade is a beacon of equality, inclusion and intersectionality. And I couldn’t be prouder to co-lead Salesforce’’s 2022 Mardi Gras entry into the parade together with Alanna Woodrow.

This year, our Mardi Gras theme ‘Team Pride’ aligned closely to what Salesforce stands for: coming together as a team to create change. It’s how we show up each day as a business and it’s how we show up at Mardi Gras. Nothing says “there is no ‘I’ in team” more than 40 Outforce (our Diversity & Inclusion group for the LGBTIQ+ community) members — masked and RAT tested — learning to synchronise two different dance moves to march in front of a cheering crowd of 50,000 in the name of equality.

Marching under the Salesforce banner is an extremely proud moment for all of Salesforce; we get to stand up for what we believe in while being visible, vocal and proud with our community. And this year, for the first time ever, we were joined by our mascot Astro dancing their way down the pitch.

Outforce: More than a once a year movement

Equality is at the heart of Salesforce, which means the cause we are representing is the focus. While Mardi Gras is an important and spectacular event in the LGBTQI+ calendar, it is one element of the impact Outforce has on the community.

For us, it’s also about the work we do behind the scenes. Lobbying for LGBTQI+ rights, showing up where it counts, and lending our voices to movements and policies that can change the lives of individuals. Policies such as the Religious Discrimination Bill. As part of our advocacy work we collaborated with our internal government team who have relationships with government bodies to be brought into the conversation around the Bill. And it wasn’t just Outforce, Salesforce’s equality group Faithforce contributed their voice to ensure all opinions were heard.

What we have learnt as an equality group and as an organisation you need to be willing to move fast on these issues and have leaders who are willing to advocate from the top. Because leadership is nothing without action.

A lot may have changed since 2017, but there is still so much to do around diversity and inclusion for the LGBTQI+ community. You only have to read the following statements from my fellow Outforce members to recognise the important role equality groups and events like Mardi Gras play in creating an equal world for all and safe spaces for people to be their authentic selves.

Out, proud and united

What does being part of Outforce mean to me? In one word it’s inclusion. Diversity and Equity/Equality are facts, but inclusion is still a choice, for us all. How can we be a contributor to creating more psychologically safe spaces, so that everyone experiences inclusion safety, learner safety, contributor safety and challenger safety? After experiencing and participating in Salesforce Team Pride, the words that came to me and I still feel now are Love, Inclusion & ENERGY!

Clyde Fernandez | GM & Regional Vice President, Platform and Sales Cloud
Salesforce at Sydney Mardi Gras

We are a values-led organisation, and when we talk about Equality with our customers, partners and the community, Outforce is the embodiment of that. We reflect the world we live in, and amplify it!

Justin Le Roux | SVP, Chief Operating Officer ANZ & ASEAN, Salesforce
Salesforce at Sydney Mardi Gras

I regret not being my authentic self in my early career so I wanted to start my Slack/Salesforce career as an openly out gay man and be 100% visible. For me, being part of Outforce means everything. To find a supportive group of people that you can instantly lean on and feel part of something so positive – nothing can replace that feeling of inclusion.

Nige Halligan | Senior Executive Programs Specialist, Slack
Salesforce at Sydney Mardi Gras

Nothing helps you understand something you don’t know like being part of that community. It’s why I joined Outforce. What is so magical about Outforce is it gives permission for everyone to bring their full selves to work. And that’s a gift I don’t think people realise unless they have been told to be less. To have a group that encourages people to be themselves empowers everyone, not just that group of people.

Nikki Cousins | Webinar Specialist, Salesforce
Salesforce at Sydney Mardi Gras

I became more active in the community at a time when my brother at 40 years old came out gay. This monumental moment for me and my family really opened up my mind to the deep complexities of beliefs and norms that can exist within families. For me, I celebrated him sharing his authentic self and immediately threw myself into seeking to support and understand his journey and one way I saw that I could make a difference was through Salesforce Outforce programs. It’s been just another way I am visible in my support of the pride community and vocal about leading change.

Alanna Woodrow | co-lead Salesforce Mardi Gras and Director, Global Brand Marketing, Salesforce
Salesforce at Sydney Mardi Gras

I’ve always wanted to make an impact within my community, but being so young in my tenure I didn’t know how. With Outforce it has allowed me to be active in my community and build each other up, all while striving for a better workplace for everyone – present and future!

Iv Hout Kuoch | Small Business Representative, Salesforce
Salesforce at Sydney Mardi Gras

If time spent being part of Outforce helps just one person within Salesforce or the wider community, then it’s time well spent. Being part of Outforce allows me to give back something back to the LGBTQI+ community in ways not possible on my own. The way that Salesforce shows up at Mardi Gras is a great example of how the business recognises the importance of visibility for the LGBTQI+ community both for its employees and the wider community. At Outforce there are no labels or judgement. However you identify, whoever you love does not matter, everyone is welcome.

Mark Doyle | Co-Chair Outforce ANZ, Enterprise Account Executive at Tableau & Co
Salesforce at Sydney Mardi Gras

I wanted to be a better ally and an active ally – to be visible and vocal for those who may not be ready to be yet and to support my colleagues to be their authentic selves every day. In previous companies I’ve been told I’m too loud or not loud enough, I’m too Asian or too western. Being told you need to change yourself to fit any mould is uncomfortable. Outforce creates a culture within Salesforce that shows us there is no one mould we have to fit in. We get to be who we are, period.

Virgina Tam | Talent Advisor, Salesforce
Salesforce at Sydney Mardi Gras
Salesforce Staff

The 360 Blog from Salesforce teaches readers how to improve work outcomes and professional relationships. Our content explores the mindset shifts, organizational hurdles, and people behind business evolution. We also cover the tactics, ethics, products, and thought leadership that make growth a meaningful and positive experience.

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