‘Driving Systemic Change’: Salesforce Chief Equality Officer on Priorities for the Year Ahead
When she was appointed Salesforce’s chief equality officer, Lori Castillo Martinez set a clear vision: to become the most inclusive workplace. Her first year in the role had its unique challenges with the industry grappling with economic uncertainty. Yet, Lori remains focused on increasing representation and creating a more inclusive culture through equity-focused processes and programs.
We sat down with Lori to understand how she’s navigating these challenges and opportunities for the year ahead.
Q: What do you bring to this role?
Driving systemic change is one of the most important things we can do to build a more equal world. I’ve seen how systemic barriers in the workplace can lead to exclusion and unequal access and can prevent individuals from reaching their highest potential.
I’m focused on deeply listening to our employees, breaking down systems within the company that don’t serve them, and redesigning those systems to be more inclusive, equal, and fair. It’s what motivates me every day.
Q: What is Salesforce’s approach to Equality work?
I don’t have to convince anyone at Salesforce that this work is important.
We believe that organizations should integrate ESG into their business – that’s what stakeholder capitalism is all about and it’s core to who we are. We’ve done that by making Equality and Sustainability two of our core values and we’ve integrated them throughout our business.
But as Chief Equality Officer, it’s my job to take our business priorities and marry them with our Equality priorities. We set clear goals and report on our progress – like we did today in our Annual Equality Update – and we bring all of our stakeholders along on our journey to create the most inclusive workplace.
Q: In an uncertain economy, is there a clear business case for inclusive teams?
This past year has been challenging in many ways. Our entire industry has faced economic headwinds and we’ve had to make difficult decisions as a result. However, we remain focused on this work. It isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s also the smart thing. In any economy there’s always a clear business case for more inclusive teams.
Our own company data shows that greater inclusivity can lead to higher performance. Last year, as part of our annual employee survey, we found that more inclusive sales teams performed 12% better and enabled 27% better use of employees’ skills and abilities. Outside of sales, employees in inclusive teams are significantly more likely to perceive their work environment and our culture as enhancing productivity and innovation.
Q: You’re one year into the role of Chief Equality Officer at Salesforce. What have you learned in the past year?
Every week I talk to Salesforce employees about the struggles they’re facing. Those conversations are instrumental to shaping our programs. For example, in late 2021 I spoke with several of our trans employees who shared with me their experience about transitioning in the workplace. Then, in partnership with Outforce, we created new Gender Inclusive Benefits to better support our transgender colleagues.
I’m focused on having hard conversations to better understand employees’ challenges, responding with meaningful action, and partnering with our Equality Groups so the communities most impacted are part of the solution.
Equality work cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. It has to serve employees on an individual level.
Q: Horrific events like Tyre Nichols’ murder and the Monterey Park shootings weigh heavily on employees. What is a company’s role in supporting employees during times of crisis?
We have to lead with empathy and support our employees as they grapple with what they’re facing today. We support employees with mental health resources and advocates through our Warmline. We also provide managers with resources to better understand current issues and how they may impact their employees. We offer corporate-matched donations to provide relief to those in need and share volunteer opportunities regularly. And as appropriate, our leadership teams convene Equality Circles – internal employee gatherings where we share, process, and support one another during times of crisis. We recently held an Equality Circle after the shooting at Club Q in Colorado, an LGBTQI+ nightclub. It was an opportunity to grieve together as a community, and hear about others’ experiences.
What I’ve found in the past year to be most important is showing up for our employees. We want them to know we hear them, we feel their pain, and we listen. We act when we can, but we always show up.
Q: How has Salesforce increased transparency in its equality work?
Transparency is deeply tied to our value of Trust, which spans everything we do. We measure and report on our equality efforts through our Annual Equality Update and in our quarterly reports. We’ve also created shared accountability in this work by tying executive compensation to ESG goals, including increasing the representation of Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and multiracial employees in the U.S. and women employees globally.
This alignment and shared accountability helps us move faster and more thoughtfully toward our goals.
Q: What are your priorities for the coming year?
I’m focused on expanding representation, which is about hiring and experience. We want employees to have a good experience after they’ve joined the company and grow their careers here. We’ll continue to roll out company-wide processes, such as microaggression and inclusive hiring trainings, that help people at different stages of learning better support their underrepresented colleagues. And we’ll continue to listen to our underrepresented employees and create programs designed to meet their unique needs.
Q: How is Salesforce trying to make a bigger impact in this space?
Equality is a two-way street. We’re constantly learning from our ecosystem of customers and partners, and we’re helping them accelerate this work. I regularly meet with customers to help them design their DEI strategies and we work across our partner ecosystem to build greater diversity, equity, and inclusion. Together, we drive business outcomes, productivity, and performance with this work.
And other leaders in this space inspire me every day. Earlier this month, I joined a panel alongside Lisa Kenney, CEO of Reimagine Gender, who shared a valuable reminder that when you limit your products by gender, you limit your potential, and you take away choice from your customers.
When it comes to equality, we know we can’t do this alone – and together we’re exponentially multiplying this work.
Learn more about Salesforce’s commitment to equality on our website and in our annual equality update.