Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has a simple prescription when it comes to bringing about more gender and racial equality in the country: every single person needs to do something--anything, he said while speaking at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing tech diversity conference on Friday.
"Each and everyone of us has to decide what personal action we're going to take to make the world more equal. I'm not saying you have to do everything, but you need to do something," Benioff told a crowd of thousands of female technologists at the Toyota Center in Houston.
"Whether it is your public school, whether it is equality for women in your company, whether it is LGBTQ rights, whether it is fighting for more income, whether it is fighting for racial equality, please do one thing," Benioff said. "If everybody does one thing, I'm sure we're going to get there."
Benioff served as one of the keynote speakers for the tech diversity conference, which attracted more than 15,000 attendees from around the U.S.--up from nearly 12,000 last year.
During his session, Benioff recounted the various steps Salesforce has taken in recent years to bring more diversity and inclusion to the massive tech company. Benioff touched on the company's efforts to ensure women receive equal pay as their male counterparts.
He also spoke about the reasoning behind his decision last year to threaten to pull all of Salesforce's employees and investments out of Indiana. Benioff made the threat following Gov. Mike Pence's decision to approve a "religious freedom" law that would have allowed for the discrimination of LGBT people.
"I'm married. I'm straight. I'm heterosexual, and I'm also lesbian. I'm gay. I'm bisexual. I'm transgender--I'm all of our employees," Benioff said. "I have to be. I have to represent everything."
"I try to have a consciousness where I understand how our employees, customers and partners feel. I want to fully accept them for who they are, and I also want to understand how somebody like Mike Pence feels," he added. "And then somehow you have to lift everybody up. That's how I look at it, and I think we all have to look at it that way. We all have to see ourselves in each other."
Benioff is among the most outspoken CEOs in the tech industry, which has been ramping up its efforts to hire and retain more women and minorities. Albeit quite slowly, Silicon Valley has been making progress with diversity, but tension within the industry remains.
Just this week, famed investor Peter Thiel set off a heated debate after making a $1.25 million contribution in support of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has made sexist, racist, and xenophobic remarks during his campaign.
Though Benioff did not allude to Thiel's support for Trump in his speech, he did close on the topic of the election.
"Look, I'm not going to get into the presidential election and tell you who I think is going to win or any of that, all right? I just want to tell you what I'm going to tell her, the next president," said Benioff, holding for a storm of applause that came from the audience, "which is: 'We want more equality.'