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Inspire, Empower, Elevate: Salesforce’s Second Annual Racial Equality Summit

Salesforce hosted its second annual Racial Equality Summit, Representation Matters to celebrate Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities.

Last Tuesday, Salesforce hosted its second annual Racial Equality Summit, Representation Matters. Six hundred joined in person at Yerba Buena Gardens Theater in San Francisco (with over half a million watching online), to celebrate Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities who are historically the most underrepresented in business, and remain the most unrepresented in the tech industry today. A full day of programming elevated luminary talent in these communities who are trailblazers in their respective fields, while having important conversations about how to drive racial equality in business and society at large.

Watch the full program here.

The day opened with remarks from Tony Prophet, Chief Equality Officer at Salesforce, alongside three of Salesforce’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) presidents that support the Black, Latinx, and Indigenous employees and allies. “Today is all about upleveling the work of those most underrepresented groups in the tech community. We hope that today and throughout the programming, you feel inspired by our communities, you feel empowered to go back to your companies to create change, and you see yourself in the role models we brought for you today, because as we all know, representation matters.” Andréa Schiller, President of Latinoforce said. Tony honored the work the presidents are doing to cultivate a culture of belonging at Salesforce. “Every day they inspire me. I’m super proud to be their colleague, and that they’re leading this important part of the organization through equality groups,” Prophet said.

What it Means to Lead in the Tech Industry

Next, c-suite executives from Deloitte, Cisco Systems, and Kapor Center took the stage for an engaging conversation around what it means to lead in the tech industry. Similarly reflected in their answers were their mothers’ influence in their ambitions. Lili Gangas, Chief Technology Community Officer of Kapor Center, recalled her family’s journey, starting with immigrating from Bolivia, being raised by a single parent in a low-income household, and English being her second language. Fast forward to earning her degree in Electrical Engineering, and her career beginning working in the aerospace industry on classified systems and information. She questioned who would believe a child of an immigrant would later be working on such a project? “My momma did,” Gangas said.

Global Chief Innovation Officer of Deloitte, Larry Quinlan, raised his perspective on the responsibility of now being “in the room,” an analogy used consistently throughout the day equated with having a level of influence to be included in decision-making and high-level discussions. Quinlan declared, “It is my absolute responsibility to deliberately help others get into rooms I happen to be in or rooms that I own.” This proved true when SVP, Customer Transformation at Cisco Systems, Guillermo Diaz, recalled being on a panel with Quinlan 14 years ago, and how when he became CIO at Cisco, Quinlan flew to visit him and sat in the room with him for a required CIO simulation exercise. Elevating others and each other has helped the panelists get to where they are today.

Watch the full session here.

Dascha Polanco on Building a Business and Taking in the Moment

Up next, award winning actress and activist, Dascha Polanco took the stage to discuss her journey, both personally and professionally, most well-known for her role portraying Dayanara “Daya” Diaz on the Netflix series, Orange Is the New Black. A Dominican immigrant, Polanco had to learn how to advocate for herself and her work in the entertainment industry, the hard way. Her takeaways: “It’s ok to ask for what you’re worth.” Polanco also spoke to the need for more diversity across the board when it comes to the entertainment industry. “There’s been progress but we still have a lot of work to do.”

Dascha Polanco speaks onstage about why Representation Matters to her, the media industry, and society at large.

Beyond the industry, Polanco spoke about using her platform to advocate for those vulnerable communities affected by homelessness, mental health, incarceration, and other issues. Having opportunities to come to conferences like this and have these conversations is essential. “If communities are not informed of resources, word will not spread,” Polanco said.

Watch the full session here.

Moving Diversity Forward with Vice President of Inclusion at Netflix, Verna Meyers

After lunch, VP of Inclusion at Netflix, Verna Meyers, lit up the room, advocating for honest dialogue to defy racism and expand inclusivity. “There’s a paralysis around engagement and bridging the divide because folks are afraid they’ll say the wrong thing… What I’m trying to do is give people a notion of impact.”

Meyers referenced tips from her book, What If I Say the Wrong Thing? 25 Habits for Culturally Effective People offering tactical tips for giving feedback to a peer when they’ve said something that just doesn’t feel right. From the straight-forward, “Excuse me, what do you mean by that?” to the blunt, “Ouch,” or “Awkward,” Meyers made the case that it’s more important to stand up to correct the inequity or disparity, no matter the environment, team, country, or society. “We need to say more things in more cases than we do. When we don’t stand up, it makes it harder for us to ultimately stay,” Meyers said.

VP of Inclusion at Netflix, Verna Meyers discusses representation onstage at Representation Matters.

Meyers’ current role as VP of Inclusion at Netflix keeps her busy, as she works through defining what allyship means at Netflix. “You must be led. You don’t lead the other person. The other person has to lead you.” Listening, learning, and mutual respect must happen before you can even step. Her hopes for Netflix? “Tell as many diverse stories as we can.”

Meyers left the group with one impactful piece of advice: “If you know how to create constructive conversations, you are a true asset to a company. You might not have authority, but you have influence.”

Watch the full session here.

Impacting your Community

Next on stage is a panel moderated by Salesforce’s very own Ebony Frelix Beckwith, Chief Philanthropy Officer for Salesforce. Joined next to her are three executives doing their part to impact the community through their roles at major corporations, Google, Lyft, and the NFL. All of the women spoke to wanting to blaze trails in their careers so that those after them can see people that look like them in leadership roles. “There’s a responsibility and privilege to have the identity I have to share it.” Ronalee Zarate-Bayani, CMO of the NFL said. “Face the adversity so it’s not as difficult for the next person that looks like me.” Google’s Corporate Counsel, Maria Running Fisher-Jones echoed.

Panelists discuss community impact onstage at Representation Matters.

Veronica Juarez, VP of Social Enterprise at Lyft, asked, “In what way are you uniquely positioned to make an impact?” For Lyft, it’s solving the transportation gap by providing vulnerable communities with access to rides that can change their lives. “Understand what your values are and explore how you are able to change the world. Stay inside that commitment and every day it’ll get easier. You’ll be astounded by what you’re able to produce,” Juarez said.

Watch the full session here.

Lift as you Rise

Lift as you Rise honed in on how panelists could amplify their impact through mentorship and sponsorship. Vice President of Intel Capital, Sandra Lopez shared how she has monthly mentor days to ensure she’s allocated time to give back. “My job is to be a resource and toolbox to help others get their next role. Mentors give you inspiration but sponsors give you the platform.” Leah McGowen-Hare, VP Trailhead Evangelism at Salesforce shared, “Mentors open you to a vision of yourself that you may not have seen otherwise, and you have to have a growth mindset to accept that.”

Craig Cuffie shared his experience of his roles at Salesforce, SVP Global Procurement and Equality Group sponsor of Abilityforce, Salesforce’s Equality Group focused on inclusion for people with disabilities. “It’s one thing to have a job, it’s another thing to have a job where you can do the best work of your life.” Cuffie was excited (and emotional) to announce a new program that hires neuro-diverse individuals as interns.

Watch the full session here.

Leading the Change in Business and Society

The final panel featured black leaders across sectors to discuss achievements that are leading business and society forward. Jotaka Eaddy, Chief Strategy Officer of Promise recounted her life’s work as the “Olivia Pope” of Silicon Valley, but said there are many more doing that work. “There are so many amazing black women wearing the white hat fighting the fight and doing the work. When I think about Olivia Popes in this industry, not only do we belong, but we are enough.”

Founder of PepUp Tech, Shonnah Hughes, similarly echoed Eaddy’s sentiment. “We’re told a lie that it’s a pipeline problem. Looking at all the black and brown people here, there’s not a pipeline problem.”

Watch the full session here.

Opening the Door for Others with Ryan Coogler and Issa Rae

L-R: Filmmaker Ryan Coogler, and writer, producer and actress Issa Rae talk onstage during the Representation Matters keynote.

The day closed with Filmmaker, Ryan Coogler, and Writer, Producer, and Actress Issa Rae, two trailblazers in the entertainment industry. It’s clear the two have deep mutual respect for each other and are big fans of the other’s work. Coogler recalled the first time he saw a billboard for Rae’s hit series, Insecure, which was running at the same time as Donald Glover’s, Atlanta. These were two comedic shows about the black millennial experience, one from the male perspective and one from the female perspective. “Give me more of this,” said Coogler.

Rae similarly recalled being at the premiere of Coogler’s most recent work, Black Panther, and the feeling of excitement (and relief) when it was such a hit. “It makes your life richer to be able to experience it with other people that get you, that know what it took.” Rae stated. “There’s a level of enjoyment in the shared experience.”

Rae ended with the importance of ensuring people of color have access to opportunities, both in entertainment and beyond. “The more there is of us out there, the better it is for everybody,” said Rae.

Watch the full program here.
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