Open Letter to Benioff

On January 23-26, 2018, the World Economic Forum held their annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Present at the meeting were world leaders, business executives, and economists. Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, was asked to speak on a panel called “In Technology We Trust?” moderated by Andrew Sorkin, of the New York Times.

This letter is Amplify’s response to some of the remarks made during introductions. We, as the world, cannot stand by and let remarks like this go unchecked. This letter was sent to Marc Benioff, and we are now publishing it on our blog to help educate allies and accomplices on a broader stage. We applaud Mr. Benioff for his continual work to amplify underrepresented voices in technology.

Dear Mr. Benioff,

We are writing on behalf of Amplify, a nonprofit organization founded in the  Power of US Hub. Amplify’s mission is to empower nonprofit and higher ed women and trans/nonbinary individuals to be fearless leaders in technology. To date, all of our members are also members of the Salesforce #Ohana.

Amplify often speaks of the distinction between allies and accomplices. Allies offer support and encouragement, accomplices take it a step further - often risking their status or reputation for the sake of advocating for others. There is risk involved in using one’s position and platform to consistently speak up on behalf of women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals. By walking in the Women’s Marches of 2017 and 2018, by taking the opportunity to speak publicly on behalf of underrepresented voices, by conducting a salary survey and acting on the results, Amplify has long considered you an accomplice in amplifying many underrepresented voices.

At the 2018 World Economic Forum panel, titled “In Technology We Trust?”, you spoke up about the importance of trust, in keeping with the long-held Salesforce core value of trust. We tuned in expectantly to hear your comments. However, we were distracted from giving our full attention due to the panel moderator’s introductions.

As you’ll recall, the panel moderator, Andrew Sorkin, introduced each of the panelists. When he introduced Sir Martin Sorrell, stating that The Economist named him “The King of the Mad Men,” Sir Martin responded “What about the Mad Women?” Mr. Sorkin, without missing a beat responded “Yes. Hashtag Me Too,” before moving on quickly to introduce you.

We’ve thought about this brief exchange since. We’ve played and replayed the video. We’ve analyzed it from all sides. Unfortunately, the conclusion we’ve come to was that Mr. Sorkin was making a casual joke about #MeToo, a hashtag that refers to the sexual assault of women by men.

The World Economic Forum is the right place to discuss the implications of sexual harassment and sexual assault, because they are global problems, and they restrict women’s economic potential.  At Dreamforce 2017, signs everywhere read “If you see something, say something.” We saw something in this exchange, and we’d like to ask you to say something.

One of the most damning aspects of working in technology is the pervasiveness of a culture that allows these kinds of comments to go unchecked.  Or worse, tolerated as part of a greater context in which the perpetrator is, “only kidding.”

We know that one of the most important aspects of Salesforce, and the community that Salesforce fosters, is the concept of Ohana.  That we are welcome as we are, that we are safe in our workplaces, and that we try to reflect this in the greater world around us.

We are asking you to use the opportunity of this flippant comment to open up new dialogue on changing a culture of harassment and discrimination faced by many.

There was a missed opportunity to highlight that #MeToo is much more than “Mad Women,” and reflects the importance of women’s issues on the global stage - these kinds of jokes are the “locker room” talk that you and many other leaders have the power to call out when they happen.  The Salesforce community and the world is listening.  Because you are a leader on these issues, when these moments happen in such a public manner, please continue to use your voice to speak up on behalf of underrepresented voices, and continue inspiring others to take steps toward being accomplices to all underrepresented voices in tech.


Marisa Lopez, President of Amplify,

Joni Bryan, Co-Founder of Amplify,

Angela Adams, Co-Founder of Amplify,

And Members of the Amplify Community