After obtaining her MBA in Sustainable Development from the University of Cape Town in South Africa, Bayly Mattes, Salesforce’s Equality Programs Director, worked on various UN aid projects across Africa.
In April 2016, she joined Salesforce in Germany where one of the first programmes she created and nurtured was BuddyForce, an initiative aimed at helping refugees integrate into German life and gain social confidence and employability skills.
Bayly’s strong desire to make a difference, give back and lead by example with empathy drove the initiative’s success – and two years later, led to her joining Salesforce’s Office of Equality.
Here she took pleasure in learning further how to truly understand, empathise with and meet the needs of an array of talent. And while empathy and inclusion are reflected across Salesforce’s leadership teams, that knowledge didn’t stop Bayly from feeling a bit nervous about telling her manager she would be going on maternity leave in the summer of 2019.
Feelings of self-doubt crept in around how the news would be received, how she would stay connected while away and welcomed when she returned.
Bayly’s experience and vigilance preparing for maternity leave aren’t unusual. Harvard Business Review reports that pregnant women and mothers often face discrimination and are viewed as less capable than their counterparts. Working mothers often work harder, and longer, to overcome bias after leave.
But while Bayly felt nervous and anxious, her manager’s reaction was to congratulate her and offer his full support.
“In the whole meeting, he didn’t talk about work,” she recalls. “He spoke about his kids and how amazing parenthood was and just made me feel relaxed.”
Bayly stepped away for her 40-week paid parental leave with confidence and peace of mind knowing she was supported by her team.
That conversation is one example of how Salesforce strives to provide inclusive leadership and a welcoming environment for attracting and retaining a diverse workforce. The inclusive culture is led from the top. CEO Marc Benioff often says that “Business is the greatest platform for change” which means making decisions that build a culture of belonging and inclusion. It’s an ideology that filters throughout the organisation.
“Salesforce’s culture encourages bold and courageous conversations, making it a safe place to speak up and to make mistakes and learn from them along the way,” Bayly explains. “The culture allows people to open up and not just come to work and complete routine tasks. We feel encouraged to bring a little bit more.
“The leadership team really inspires me, and there are opportunities for us to do hackathons and competitions because they want us to share our ideas, and they want employees to drive whatever is being created.”
This inclusive leadership approach was demonstrated by the way Salesforce responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. Marc and the leadership team decided that taking care of customers and employees was the top priority. Offices were closed, and Salesforce made sure everyone had what they needed to work from home. Bayly is impressed that Marc listens deeply to the 50,000+ Salesforce employees.
She adds: “I was still on maternity leave at the start of the pandemic, but colleagues said they felt so safe and proud to work here at Salesforce because we have a leader we can trust. I think that is super important.”
When Bayly returned to work as EMEA equality programs director, she was delighted by how she was welcomed back. “I got invited to meetings, people asked me how I was,” she enthuses. “The whole coming back and feeling included has been phenomenal.” It’s a common sentiment among working parents at Salesforce.
Bayly’s role involves talking to partners to ensure that they are leading with our inclusive practices in their organisations and liaising with the 12 employee resource groups to make sure they have what they need. The job also includes looking at what’s required to attract and retain talent that reflects society and organising training to fill any knowledge gaps.
Bayly has always worked in diverse environments and has a career background in technology and development aid. When she first moved to Germany, she heard about Salesforce and was instantly attracted by the company’s volunteering programmes.
She explains: “A lot of the refugees had come from Syria and Uganda and didn’t have access to computers. We brought them into Salesforce and taught them how to use technology, showed them how to code, and even got some of them jobs.
“Then I moved to the Equality team because I realised that we have so many people in our building and if we can make every employee an equality ambassador, that can be a fountain of change that will trickle down to their families and neighbours.”
Have a goal and stick to it
Bayly has changed her leadership style since joining Salesforce. She says the company has emboldened her to try new things. While working on the volunteering side, she recognised a need to bring in more people, but she questioned how to inspire busy people to volunteer.
“The main thing that I learned about leadership was to have your goal and stick to it,” she reveals. “Stay true to yourself and even if not everybody wants to join us, there are people that do. If as a leader, you’re not convinced of an idea, nobody else will be.”
Bayly adds: “At Salesforce you are surrounded by so many intelligent people, and people do challenge you, which I think is good. Then you can ask yourself ‘am I doing the right thing? Is my leadership style correct, and am I happy with it?’ If you can answer yes, you can feel confident, bold, and courageous enough to inspire people to follow you.
“Some people are natural leaders, and some are nurtured. We’re very lucky to have a mix, all of whom are supported by the robust talent development and training we offer. Salesforce provides opportunities for open dialogue, and a lot of room to have safe and courageous conversations.”
How to be an active ally
Good leadership for Bayly takes many forms; one of which is allyship, something very close to Bayly’s heart.
As a white South African, she’s witnessed the inequality experienced by the country’s Black population and strove to act as an ally to make a difference.
She explains: “For me, allyship means listening, understanding the underrepresented group’s needs, speaking up, and being intentional in what you are doing. Then finally, show up.
“If you expand your network to other people and hear their stories, you can learn so much. It also changes the way you think. For example, during the ongoing racial injustices against the Black community, I’ve heard so many stories, and it’s opened my mind. You can learn and make a change.”
Summing up what she has learned throughout her career, Bayly says it’s important to believe in your strengths and that it’s okay to fail. She adds: “We’re only human and we’re not machines, and we need support. It’s incredible how far we can push ourselves; even as leaders and allies.”
Ready to discover your own future at Salesforce? Visit Salesforce’s Careers site to explore available roles.