We held our first-ever Racial Equality summit, Representation Matters, at Yerba Buena Auditorium last Monday. 700 in-person attendees and 126,000 online viewers joined us to celebrate Black, Latinx, and Native Trailblazers in our tech industry and society at large. All of our speakers and vendors were people of color. 

Representation Matters featured luminary keynote speakers — including Janelle Monáe and America Ferrera — and panelists that included c-level executives, venture capitalists, and civil rights activists. They shared timely and thought-provoking points on how to elevate the conversation around racial equality in tech, in the workplace, and in our communities.

Ethnic minority groups in tech — Black, Latinx, and Native people — are still acutely underrepresented. Black and Latinx graduates earned nearly 18% of computer science degrees, but had less than six percent of tech jobs in 2017, according to State of Black America 2018. And across our industry – Black, Latinx, and Native groups typically make up less than 10% of employee populations.

But we know that there is immeasurable power in representation and that there is much more work to be done. We believe that an important step is to elevate the luminary talent all around us and provide a platform for this important conversation. During our event, Salesforce set out to bring together Black, Latinx, and Native employee resource groups, their allies, tech communities, and leaders to help drive positive social change.

As one of our speakers, Salesforce's Head of Trailblazer Marketing Cristina Jones, said as she looked out at hundreds of people of color in the audience — “when someone tells you there isn’t diversity in tech, tell them to look around the room.”

Here’s a recap of the event. You can also watch the full day here.


Representation in the c-suite

The event started with an inspiring discussion moderated by Salesforce’s EVP Global Recruiting, Ana Recio with powerful Latinx and Black women in c-suite level positions. They shared insights into how they became some of the most influential leaders in their fields while often being the only one in the room. Each of them has an inspiring lesson on how to be a role model and how to create opportunities for others along the way. 

“I learned very early on that my accent was seen as an indicator of my intelligence. I was the only Latina in my office at the time. I struggled. Then my inner voice came in and told me, ‘Fight, You deserve to be there and can change the culture,’” shared Nellie Borrero, the Managing Director, and Senior Global Inclusion and Diversity Lead at Accenture. She went on to remind us that "you've got to lift as you rise" and raise others up as you go. 

Representation is also about paying it forward to others. “I take it as my mission to be a mentor because when I was pursuing my career in computer science, there weren’t people who looked like me,” said Ebony Frelix, Executive Vice President and Chief Philanthropy Officer at Salesforce.org.

Representation is incredibly important in the technology sector as we build tools that, directly or indirectly, will impact our society. “Technology is reshaping our future, and we need more girls and women at the table where decisions are being made,” said Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of Girl Scouts, engineer, and author.

Watch the full session here.


Using your platform for change with DeRay McKesson


We hosted Civil Rights Activist and Founder of Pod Save the People, DeRay McKesson, for a fireside chat with Salesforce’s Head of Equality Content, Alexandra Siegel on how we can all help champion social justice. DeRay reminded us that “freedom isn’t only the absence of oppression — but it’s also the presence of justice and joy.”

He discussed the importance of thinking through how we tell our stories and using truth as a vehicle for change.

“The truth has to come before the reconciliation. Every story is a lesson in power. How do we make representation about the questions that matter?  Who are we, where did we come from, and where do we go next?” he added.

Watch the full session here.


Bringing diversity to venture capital


We then heard from powerhouse VC's who are disrupting the startup and Venture Capital worlds while empowering their communities —Arlan Hamilton, Founder and Managing Director of Backstage Capital, Erik Moore, Founder and Managing Director of Base Ventures and Miriam Rivera, the Co-founder and Managing Director of Ulu Ventures.

Everyone deserves to see themselves represented,” said Arlan Hamilton. “Representation is why I started our company. We need representation for many reasons. It frustrates me that I see a lot of people of color or women who feel like they have to ask permission for a piece of the pie. We don’t.”

Venture-backed companies represent two-thirds of U.S. public companies. “If women and underrepresented communities aren't part of those teams, this will never change. We must be visible,” said Miriam Rivera.

Watch the full session here.


A Conversation: representation of Indigenous Peoples


During our event, we took the time to honor the heritage of Indigenous People’s by opening our day with an acknowledgment of the first people to live on our land we now call San Francisco — the Ohlone and Miwok Tribes.

We later heard from Jessica Heavy Runner, Salesforce’s Senior eDiscovery Engineer who is also a founder of our new Indigenous People’s employee resource group. She discussed issues that impact the communities and how we can build more access to Native People into tech.


Representation Matters with Janelle Monáe and America Ferrera

To end this remarkable day, we had an inspiring keynote from award-winning actress America Ferrera and multi-grammy nominated singer-songwriter, Janelle Monáe — moderated by Molly Ford, Salesforce’s Senior Director of Global Equality Programs.


The first ever Representation Matters event brought together and empowered Black, Latinx, and Native employees across the Bay Area — while also educating their allies. We believe that with brave and authentic conversations like these, we can move forward together. 

“Honor the experience people have in their lives. Use that as a launch pad to have conversations,” concluded DeRay McKesson.

Learn more about our Employee Resource Groups and our commitment to Equality.