In 2016, I sat down with Jessica Lin, co-founder & general partner at enterprise VC fund Work-Bench, at their office in New York City. We had met a year earlier at Dreamforce, having shared a mutual love of enterprise technology investing and had stayed in touch sharing thoughts, trends and ideas about the industry. But this meeting was different - we were primarily reflecting on the shared feeling that it’s lonely to be a woman in enterprise tech. We had both too often been the only women in the meeting room, struggling to be seen and taken seriously, and experiencing adversity first hand. We also were aware of the numbers -- the average deal size for a woman-led company in 2017 was just over $5 million, while a man-led company received a little less than $12 million. So we knew instinctively that it was even worse within enterprise tech. We also knew, however, that women in the industry today are doing amazing work and believed that we needed to band together to both showcase that work and help ignite a movement to realize a more equal future.

I am so excited that our vision is coming to life with the launch of the first-ever Navigate 2018: Women in Enterprise Tech Summit on February 28, 2018 in NYC hosted by Salesforce Ventures and Work-Bench. The one day conference will bring together women in enterprise technology to celebrate the great work women are doing to inspire others and foster the growth and development of a community committed to improving equality. Partnering with Work-Bench was a natural fit for this event given the impact they are making in the greater enterprise technology community in NYC and the alignment with our values at Salesforce: equality, trust, growth and innovation.

As a woman in the enterprise tech space, I love my work, my teams and my company. Events such as Navigate 2018 which bring together strong and powerful women to discuss openly and honestly our experiences and visions for a more equal future, are empowering and give me hope for where the industry is heading. With Navigate 2018 we want to drive momentum and action needed to accelerate longer-term initiatives to support women from across all parts of the enterprise tech ecosystem.

One of the speakers on Wednesday will be Leyla Seka, EVP of the Salesforce AppExchange, who in 2015, helped bring the issue of equal pay to light, along with her colleague Cindy Robbins, Chief People Officer at Salesforce. Salesforce conducted its first equal pay audit later that year  and since then has spent nearly $6 million to eliminate differences in pay, for both men and women.

“Equality begins when employees are empowered to use their voices to create change, and it takes active leadership to get there,” said Leyla Seka in Forbes last year. This powerful statement has resonated with me ever since. We are now actively working to leverage the power of the Salesforce Platform to support women in their quest to grow their careers, build businesses, and change their companies and communities for the better. 

Along those lines, last year we announced the $50M Salesforce Impact Fund to accelerate the growth of companies that are not only creating innovative solutions but also improving the state of the world in four key areas: education and workforce development, equality, sustainability and the social sector. The fund invests in companies like Ellevest, an investing platform designed for women that aims to solve the gender investment gap. Founded by Sallie Krawcheck, Ellevest’s vision aligns with Salesforce's for advancing equality for all by helping women take charge of their future and achieve their goals.

At Navigate 2018, the audience will hear from seven female leaders from top emerging and growth stage startups, large public corporations, venture funds and government from across the country. These women will share how they’ve helped build iconic companies, navigated their careers, and their thoughts on the future of enterprise tech.

We know that this conference is only a first step, and that the true success of the event will be measured in the ripple effect it creates. At the end of the conference, our hope is that everyone walks away with a voice in their head saying, “Now is the time.” Now is the time to take my career to the next level. Now is the time to promote equality within my company. Now is the time to make my voice heard. Now is the time for action.

I could not be more proud to look back on what we have achieved so far and know the vision for the future is bright as we kick off the year with some of the most powerful, passionate and successful women in enterprise technology in one room at Navigate 2018.