A rabbi, an imam, and a bishop walk into the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.

That's not the setup for a joke. It was actually the scene Thursday in San Francisco as city leaders and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff celebrated the placement of the last steel beam of the soon-to-be-completed Salesforce Tower, now San Francisco's tallest skyscraper.

Benioff and his team made it a point to emphasize diversity and inclusion by kicking off the event with a joint prayer and blessing from the San Francisco Interfaith Council, which also included zen and meditation spiritual leaders.

"A very important part of our culture is to include everybody," Benioff told Inc. "It's a really important part of everything that we do."

Benioff famously protested Indiana's so-called religious freedom law in 2015 by threatening to pull his company out of the state. Last year, he was also the keynote speaker at the Grace Hopper women in tech conference, and just this week, the company issued an update on its state of gender pay equality, ensuring female Salesforce employees are not earning less than their male equivalents.

For Salesforce and other companies, placing an emphasis on diversity and inclusion is a part of exercising good business practices. Numerous studies have found that companies with more diversity outperform their more homogenous peers. Lack of diversity can also manifest in public relations nightmares, as companies like Uber and Snap can speak to.

"I know Marc understands and celebrates our San Francisco values," said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. "It just seems fitting that the tallest building west of Chicago, literally a beacon, has a ceremony representing such inclusion and openness of our diverse faiths."

At the Salesforce Tower event, Benioff announced that top floor of the building -- the 61st -- will not be used as office space for his company. Instead, the floor will be kept as an open space to be used as a meeting area during the day and an event space open to the San Francisco community at night. The floor will be named the Ohana floor, Hawaiian for family and a major theme in Salesforce's corporate lore.

"The entire top floor is empty, and that's really all about our ability to give back to others," Benioff told Inc. "Religious groups, nonprofits, NGOs, and schools will also be able to use that floor when we're not using it."

Approximately 70 percent of the office space at Salesforce Tower has now been leased. The building is set to be completed later this year. Salesforce expects to begin moving into the skyscraper as soon as late 2017.

Published on: Apr 6, 2017