By Jaeson Parsons
Sunday Parker’s experiences with a mobility-based disability since birth has given her unique insight into the struggles that those with disabilities face. We wanted to get a better understanding of Sunday’s career journey as well as her insight into the creation and success of Abilityforce at Salesforce.
Sunday, pictured far left, has succeeded, and now she is the Global President of Abilityforce, the Employee Resource Group at Salesforce.
DiversityComm asked Sunday to give us some background into her experiences growing up with her disability.
“I grew up in a very small town in Oklahoma that didn’t have a stop light, let alone many accessibility considerations,” she stated. “As a wheelchair user since age 9, I was often lifted into shops and restaurants that didn’t have ramp access. Overcoming challenges was my ‘normal’—I faced barriers going to school, spending time with friends, and even lived in a house that had multiple steps getting in the front door.”
After graduating high school in 2009 and moving to San Francisco to attend university, her experiences were eye-opening.
“For the first time, I could take buses and trains, easily go along sidewalks, and the majority of businesses were accessible. This shift from living in a small town that had barriers at every turn to one of the most accessible cities in America was life-changing.”
Sunday graduated in 2013 with a degree in interior architecture and design; however, she felt more suited to the tech industry.
“After graduation, I wasn’t sure where my career journey would take me, but I knew I wanted to be part of an organization where I felt valued and could explore my interests,” she said.
It was Salesforces’ philanthropic method that attracted her to apply.
“[Their] commitment to donate 1 percent of earnings, 1 percent of products, and 1 percent of employee time to charitable causes is an organization I was excited to be a part of, and felt I could bring value to.”
Before accepting the position, Sunday requested to speak with an accommodations manager to discuss her disability needs for the position. She was encouraged by their reaction.
“My initial conversation started with them assuring me, ‘My job is to make sure your first day is the best first day you’ve ever had, so let’s talk about how we’re going to do that.’” A company switch is tough for anyone, but there is added complexity as a disabled person like myself who requires accommodations. But I left that conversation not just excited, but confident to start my journey at a company that was mutually invested in my success.”
Once at Salesforce, Sunday became involved in a grassroots group called Abilityforce. Founded in 2016, this was Salesforce’s first resource group for employees with disabilities.
Through her career development, Sunday has experienced many challenges and missed opportunities related to accessibility in the workplace, as well as the lack of resources, and this was something she wanted to see improved drastically for future generations. Sunday has seen firsthand the benefits of employee resource groups as it relates to the team environment at the company.
“Having employee resource groups helps to build a culture where everyone, regardless of their identity, can feel empowered to bring their full and authentic selves to work. People want to work at companies that reflect the communities they live in.”
We asked Sunday to outline the future for Abilityforce.
“We have a long-range plan to become a best place to work for people with disabilities. We continue to strive to have our physical and technological environments accessible and designed with everyone in mind by developing innovative best practices.”
Companies like Sunday’s that create employee resource groups allow for a deeper connection within the company and across the globe, as colleagues around the world provide their unique insight for development. Sunday said something that was very powerful—that we are stronger together. Finding ways to connect and break down the chains of isolation through human connection is a powerful tool. In her final remarks, Sunday stated that business can be a powerful platform for social change. Creating employee resource groups can increase solidarity and become a driving force for equal opportunity and accessibility within the workplace.