Dreamforce planning and prep is in full swing here at Salesforce, and I’m particularly excited about the work we’re doing to make sure this event represents one of our core values: Equality.
At Dreamforce 2016, we’ll demonstrate Equality in many ways, including everyone having better access around campus regardless of mobility requirements, nursing mothers being able to pump when needed, and people of all genders having a place to take a break on the trail with the introduction of gender neutral restrooms.
One Equality event I’m super excited about is the second annual Women’s Leadership Summit. I sat down with the founder of this event, Molly Ford, Senior Manager, Public Relations, to get the scoop.
What is your “back of the napkin” story? How did you decide to create the Women’s Leadership Summit in 2015?
My “back of the napkin” story began in the spring of 2015 on a train ride from New York City to Boston, where I had the captive attention of Leyla Seka, SVP and GM of Salesforce Desk.com. I showed her a year-old plan that I had created—my vision for a women’s conference at Salesforce. The conference I imagined was one where you look up on stage and see nothing but accomplished, awesome, smart women talking about their successes in business and in life. Salesforce does a great job of pulling together compelling events, so why not focus on advancing women in leadership?
Leyla shared my vision and we got to work. After a lot of planning, making lists of leaders that inspired us and combing through our own networks of leaders, we kicked off the first Women’s Leadership Summit at Dreamforce 2015. This included a full day of powerful women leaders driving conversations on innovation, leadership, and the fight for equality. Speakers ranged from Patricia Arquette championing equal pay after her historic Oscar speech to Susan Wojcicki, indisputably one of the most successful moms in Silicon Valley calling for maternity leave reform to 10-year old Lauren Boyle, European Digital Girl of the Year, sharing her views on building the STEM Pipeline.
What was the best thing about Women’s Leadership Summit at Dreamforce 2015?
2015 was an unprecedented year in the conversation around women’s equality both in the world and in the workplace — between #LeanIn, the heightened conversation around the gender pay gap, and women’s soccer elevating women in sports. Building upon the conversation around women in the workplace, the best thing about Women’s Leadership summit 2015 was the speakers — powerful, diverse leaders that had excelled in their respective fields and just so happened to be women.
The conversations were not necessarily focused on women, but were universal business topics with a woman leading the conversation. For example, the highest rated session featured the CEO of Stitch Fix, Katrina Lake and CEO of TaskRabbit, Leah Busque in conversation around how they started their business, their leadership style, and naturally, them being women CEOs came up in conversation. The greatest take away centered around both leaders encouraging business leaders to seek out VC funding or backers that fundamentally support the founders vision.
What do you have planned for the Women’s Leadership Summit at Dreamforce 2016? What’s different this year?
This year, the conversation will evolve to focus on all types of equality—workplace equality, economic equality, and social equality. Attendees will see a wider, more diverse spectrum of speakers.
Last year, some people wondered why we’d put two male leaders on stage at a women’s conference, but the point was to showcase that women don’t have to do this alone, we need to enlist allies to help build equality. This year, attendees will see even more male allies on stage. Also, we’re calling our on our customers to join us on stage this year to showcase their leaders and their passion around equality.
Marian Wright Edelman, Founder and President of the Children’s Defense Fund is credited with saying, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” My vision is that every year, the Dreamforce Women’s Leadership Summit will provide the lense for our future leaders and a place where we can all see some aspect of our talents, our community, and aspirations represented on the stage.
I just googled Marian Wright Edelman – she’s amazing – we should ask her to speak next year! This year, I’m excited to see tennis legend and equal rights activist Billie Jean King. How did you make that connection?
Earlier this year, Salesforce was invited to the White House for the anniversary of the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act—the first piece of legislation that Obama signed at the beginning of his administration. During this event, Salesforce was recognized by President Obama after we completed an Equal Pay Assessment and published our results to encourage other companies to help close the gender wage gap. At the White House, our CEO, Marc Benioff, stood alongside distinguished guests that had spent a lifetime fighting for equal pay, including Billie Jean King. (Watch recording)
Not only is Billie Jean King a tennis legend having won 39 Grand Slam titles, but she also won the iconic Battle of the Sexes match with Bobby Riggs. After hearing her story at the White House, we contacted her philanthropic organization to see if she was interested in speaking at Dreamforce to take her message of equality to the tech community.
Billie Jean King agreed to participate because she could see all of the work that Salesforce was doing with our stance against the discriminatory legislation in Indianapolis and Georgia and commitment to Equal Pay for women.
I see that Patricia Arquette is speaking again this year. Can you tell us about any other speakers?
It’s a bit soon, we’re still in the early planning stages, but I can drop a few hints. This year we’ll have an Oscar-winning actress, a few activists, a woman that has an act of congress named in her honor, and a host of women that are leading from the C-suite.
Intriguing hints! Are these sessions targeted only at folks who are or strive to be C-level executives, or do the speakers have stories and advice for Salesforce Admins who are hands-on with the Salesforce platform?
No matter what your role or job function is, there are always opportunities to demonstrate leadership or times when you might be called on to lead a group, or serve as a mentor to your community. There will be some valuable conversations happening at the Women’s Leadership Summit that will appeal to everyone.
I’m especially excited about a session offering real-world advice on how to advance your career by finding a career sponsor. And I don’t just mean a mentor. Sponsors identify your potential, make an investment in your growth, and actively advocate for your career. In this session, you will hear from successful leaders that have risen to the C-suite rank and the sponsors that have helped open doors for them along the way. This is a session that you and your manager or men that consider themselves allies should not miss.
I know a lot of men who are allies (I call them accomplices) – I’ll encourage them not to miss that session. Thank you, Molly, for bringing us the Women’s Leadership Summit – one more awesome reason to get excited for Dreamforce!