Fresh from an incredible week of launching Outforce in Hyderabad, India I decided to write this blog post. Outforce is Salesforce's Ohana Group (Employee Resource Group) for allies of diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity. This group of Salesforce LGBTQ+ employees and allies drives Salesforce's efforts around recruitment, integration, development, and retention of the LGBTQ+ workforce. Outforce has over 3,000 members and 22 chapters across the globe. The Outforce India launch is another major milestone towards Salesforce's higher purpose to drive #EqualityforAll. It is hard to put into words the energy and emotion of the week, but hopefully, this gives you a sense of it.

In the spirit of inclusion, our week began with a networking event with our extended Ohana. Forty employees from Salesforce, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and TransVision came together to share ideas, build bridges, and commit to making our workplaces more open and inclusive. All of Salesforce India's other Ohana Groups were in attendance, a great showing of allyship. Establishing a network of internal and external allies is crucial to a new Ohana Group's success.

Equality Networking Mixer

With our allies in hand, Salesforce participated in its first LGBTQ pride march in India. The Hyderabad Swabhimana Yatra (Pride Parade) drew a great number of spirited marchers, and 1 in every 10 participants were Salesforce employees and friends. The march was lead by local nonprofit and transgender community leaders. Our Chief Equality Officer, Tony Prophet, and members of the India Leadership Team marched as well, helping wave a huge rainbow flag.

Hyderabad Pride Parade

This was the biggest participation from any company ever at Hyderabad Pride, and the energy and passion were electric. Any time people come together in support of Equality is a powerful thing, but it is especially important in India where the LGBTQ community is still fighting for basic rights. Today, only 8% of LGBTQ+ Indian workers are fully out in the workplace and 41% are not out at work at all (Out Now Global LGBT 2020 Study).

The following day was the official launch of Outforce in Hyderabad. The announcement took place at an internal company event, hosted by Tony Prophet, which was our most attended Town Hall in Hyderabad to date, with more than 300 employees. The event included an Equality keynote by Tony Prophet, an LGBTQ+ awareness session by our Outforce Global President Jeffrey Huang, my personal coming out story, and a panel with an in-depth discussion with Tony, who was joined on stage by:

  • Shweta Kohli, Director Government Affairs, Salesforce India
  • Koninika Roy, Advocacy Manager, The Humsafar Trust
  • Suresh Ramdas, LGBTQ ERG Leader, HP India

The essence and the learnings of the Town Hall were best summed up by Lalitha Hima Bindu, Senior Project Coordinator - PMO, based in Hyderabad: “This was an emotional day, a day where we are all glued to our seats to realize, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” to echo Tony's words. Today, I stand as an Ally to reiterate that being sympathetic towards those who experience discrimination is just not enough. Being an ally means being willing to act with and for others in pursuit of ending oppression and creating equality. Ask. Listen. Show Up. Speak Up.”

Equality Town Hall in Hyderabad

In addition to the Townhall, other Outforce India launch events included a screening of educational films about the LGBTQ+ community, a play “Ek Madhav Buag” by The Humsafar Trust about a mother's journey to acceptance of her gay son, and a Bollywood dance performance and a workshop by TransVision, a transgender dance group. Overall, more than 150 participants joined in these fun activities, designed to increase awareness about LGBTQ+ issues. It was a busy, but fun and educational week!

After over 5 months of research and planning, Outforce India was successfully launched, creating a space safe for all LGBTQ+ employees to empower them to bring their true self to work every day.

I am proud to be a part of the positive impact that Outforce India has already had, including one employee coming out as a proud gay man at the end of the Town Hall. I'm so excited by the future of Outforce in India and all around the world.