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- Chris Sacca is scheduled to judge an event on Tuesday at Dreamforce, Salesforce’s annual user conference. His appearance at Dreamforce will come just months after he was accused of touching a female entrepreneur’s face without her consent. Sacca denied the accusation but has kept a low profile since. Other companies in tech and other industries have generally been distancing themselves from men who have recently been accused of inappropriate behavior toward women.
At a time when many companies are steering clear of prominent men accused of inappropriate behavior toward women, Salesforce is taking a different approach.
Chris Sacca, a famous investor who was accused in a New York Times article earlier this year of touching a female entrepreneur’s face without her consent, will be a featured guest at Dreamforce, the company’s annual user conference. Sacca, who denied the accusation, will serve as a judge on Tuesday at the conference’s Dreampitch contest, in which startup founders compete for a $250,000 prize.
In a statement, Salesforce said it stands by its decision.
“Chris has acknowledged and apologized for his past actions, and while Salesforce does not condone or stand by this type of behavior, we believe that the path to real change requires transparency and multi-stakeholder dialogue, in which individuals like Chris can work to be part of the solution,” the company said in the statement. “He is a valuable addition to the Dreampitch panel and we’re happy to welcome him back again this year.”
Sacca didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Salesforce’s decision to include Sacca in its program for Dreamforce comes at a time when the treatment of women in the workplace and in business situations has been increasingly in the spotlight. In recent months, numerous powerful men have been accused of sexually harassing, sexually assaulting, or otherwise behaving inappropriately toward female colleagues or subordinates.
The move to include Sacca also comes amid – and seems to run counter to – Salesforce’s efforts to portray itself as an advocate for women and as a progressive company more generally. The company has frequently touted its moves to reduce gender pay differences. Company CEO Marc Benioff was even awarded Variety’s “EmPOWerment Award” in October for the company’s focus on gender parity.
Sacca’s stepping back into the spotlight after removing himself from it
In a June article about high-level tech investors behaving inappropriately toward female entrepreneurs, The Times reported Susan Wu’s accusation that Sacca had made her feel uncomfortable by touching her face at a tech event in 2009. Sacca, who is well-known for his role on the reality TV show “Shark Tank,” denied the claim after the article was initially published. But he also wrote a blog post in which he apologized more generally for his role in making tech a difficult industry for women.
“Particularly when reflecting upon my early years in Silicon Valley, there is no doubt I said and did things that made some women feel awkward, unwelcome, insecure, and/or discouraged,” Sacca wrote in the post.
In April, about three months before The Times published its story, Sacca announced he would retire from startup investing and take a break from filming “Shark Tank.” Since publishing his blog post that followed The Times’ story, he has been out of the public eye.
Others accused of inappropriate behavior have been shunned
Sacca’s inclusion by Salesforce in its conference stands in stark contrast to other powerful men who have recently been accused of behaving inappropriately toward women. In most of those cases, the men involved have been publicly shunned and forced to resign their positions. To be sure, most of them were also accused of more egregious behavior than Sacca.
Meanwhile, in the tech industry, CEOs including SoFi’s Mike Cagney and BetterWork CEO Kris Duggan have resigned after being accused of inappropriate behavior toward women and fostering hostile work environments.
Former Uber engineer Susan Fowler arguably sparked the explosion of harassment accusations when she wrote in February about the sexual harassment she allegedly experienced at the app-based taxi company. Her post led to an investigation that resulted in the dismissal of numerous executives and employees and the resignation of CEO Travis Kalanick.