Salesforce Names Former Microsoft Executive as Equality Leader

(Bloomberg) -- Inc. named Tony Prophet, a human rights advocate and former Microsoft Corp. leader, as its chief equality officer, a role that reports directly to top executive Marc Benioff.

Prophet will be responsible for leading equality initiatives involving gender, race, and lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender issues, the company said in a statement Thursday. He recently served as Microsoft’s corporate vice president of education marketing, was co-executive sponsor of Blacks at Microsoft and founding executive of BlackLight, an organization empowering black marketers at the software giant.

Benioff has gained a reputation for speaking out on issues concerning equality, from criticizing politicians for not supporting gay rights to addressing shortcomings at his own company. The provider of cloud-based business software has said it spent $3 million to allay pay disparity between male and female employees at the company.

"Equality is a core value at Salesforce and part of the fabric of our culture," Benioff said in a statement. "Tony will be an incredible addition to our leadership team as our first chief equality officer. His experience as a leader in technology companies and his deep commitment to social issues make him the perfect fit for this key role."

Salesforce is one of four technology companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index that discloses diversity as a component of its board composition, according to researcher Equilar Inc. Only 13 percent of the S&P 500 overall disclosed the diversity of their boards in 2016 proxy statements, Equilar found.

Prophet has worked on issues of equality apart from his corporate experience. His involvement has included protecting the rights of young workers, educating female workers on health issues in developing countries and improving schools for children of migrant workers, the company said. He’s also focused on ensuring low income teens get college educations as well as improving health care for children and HIV positive women in the San Francisco Bay area.

Salesforce, was among several large companies, including Dow Chemical Co., Apple Inc. and Walt Disney Co., which lobbied against hundreds of laws this year considered potentially hostile to lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender residents. Businesses convinced Georgia’s governor not to sign one such law and failed to head off an anti-LGBT law in North Carolina, Benioff said in an interview for Bloomberg television.

"Salesforce has been at the forefront of making equality -- not just diversity and inclusion -- and the education and health care of our youth issues that every business needs to address," Prophet said in the statement. "This is an incredible opportunity to have not just an impact at Salesforce, but more broadly in the tech industry and beyond."