'It’s up to us to take up leadership' - Mark Darby from Salesforce on businesses' need to lead on LGBT+ issues

Mark Darby tells myGwork’s Louise Sinnerton how harnessing corporate power can bring about global change.



Mark joined Salesforce after a career break and a realisation that he had to work somewhere aligned to his values.

Salesforce’s ethos is all about improving the state of the world, a message that CEO Marc Benioff has talked about openly. This openness and the desire to take a stand to better society resonated with Mark

Although he joined what he describes as a “progressive company” the LGBT+ network in Europe was in its early days. Salesforce did have an LGBT+ Ohana group, (Hawaiian word for family or support group that works like an employee resource group) called Outforce, but the London faction was small compared to its US chapter.

So Mark felt it was up to him to kick start things: “I took it upon myself to build it, I didn’t know what I was doing really, I just tried to grow the team in the same way you might grow a business. I was passionate about this because a core part of me is my sexuality and being authentic is important to me”.

Before joining Salesforce Mark hadn’t openly talked about LGBT+ issues or his experiences at work, so this decision presented a daunting challenge and the start of him bringing his authentic self to work.

He talks about the anxiety around the change he was making, “When I volunteered for the role I was terrified. I realised I’d have to talk about my sexuality at work and I’d never done that before. Only in recent years had I come out to my family, which is worlds away from sharing with executives.”

Mark knows there were other employees waiting for this to happen, and as much as he was self-driven, after he first talked at an all-hands company meeting, this was the catalyst others needed to share their stories.

As the momentum grew, so did Mark’s conviction that if you find a company that shares your values you’ll be fundamentally impacted and more likely to find success. That’s something that’s becoming more and more important in an ever uncertain political climate.

While Mark is creating change as President of Outforce EMEA he uses the seven volunteering days that Salesforce gives employees to focus on the outside world: “I believe business is the greatest platform for change when it come to the moving global landscape of LGBT rights.

"This is why it's so important to have networks that drive progressive conversations and raise internal or external issues or concerns with executives. We can then leverage the power of the corporate world to help make a global impact to make the world a better place.

"A great example of Salesforce doing this was when we helped shut down the religious freedom act in Indiana a few years ago.”

There’s one thing that businesses should be, and that’s an ally to the LGBT+ community, and it’s a powerful partnership. Salesforce have proven to be a committed and effective partner overcoming “anti-LGBT” legislation in the United States, and understand how strong and influential allies can be.

Mark says the concept of allies is paramount, “allies are a big deal, they’re the core to our success. We’re learning how to guide our supporters and together we’re overcoming negative boundaries”.

He’s spent the last four years pushing himself out of his comfort zone to help the business he works for be an ally for change: “There’s a lot up in the air right now with the political landscape, so it’s up to businesses to create change and take up leadership”.

Markis President of Outforce EMEA, Salesforce’s LGBTQ employee network and was instrumental in increasing global membership to over 4,000 in 27 countries.

He has led Salesforce’s biggest EMEA pride execution in 11 countries, hosted panels for World AIDS Day, organised events for Pride month, and hosted OutInTech to run a charity event with Sophie Ellis Bextor.

Find out more about Salesforce here.

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