Should Freedom of Speech Go to the Top?

I consider myself browser neutral (as long as it isn’t IE), and spend most of my day with both Firefox and Chrome running.  So news about either of them tends to catch my eye.  So when I see news that Mozilla employees are asking the CEO to step down via Twitter, it gets my attention.  After all, the guy just got the job a few days earlier.  So why all the fuss?

It seems that the CEO in question, Brendan Eich, donated $1,000 to California’s Proposition 8 initiative against same-sex marriage.  Four years ago.  (He also invented JavaScript and is, by all accounts, a pretty impressive tech brain.)  So there is outrage that he has been appointed CEO,  given his political beliefs, citing the Mozilla code of diversity and inclusion.

But here’s the thing.

Doesn’t diversity and inclusion sort of imply that a person is free to believe as they will, so long as it doesn’t lead to discrimination in the workplace?  Are we really going to expect someone to give up their professional ambition because they choose to donate their own money (and not an overwhelming amount, though not trivial) to a cause that is unpopular?  I expect there are C-level officers in almost every company in the world that don’t believe in same-sex marriage.  Just look at the list.  Feelings on this issue tend to run along age lines, and the more experienced business leaders tend to be older.  We can make a reasonable extrapolation, then, that there are a number of leaders who feel the same as Eich.  They also happen to be good at what they do, and capable of leading an organization.

Don’t misunderstand my view on the issue.  I find the ongoing movement to deny two consenting adults life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to be archaic nonsense, free of both logic and compassion.  But I also imagine that were a CEO who had supported the opponents of Prop 8 been asked to resign over their beliefs, there would be outrage.  Rightfully so, I think.

As HR professionals, this is the kind of thing that we need to be able to step back and consider dispassionately.  Do the private donations of an individual to a legitimate political group have any bearing on their ability to lead?  Are we suggesting that diversity is only a positive thing when it meets our personal world views of equality?  Or can we build a truly inclusive workplace where even these kinds of divisive issues could be met not with demands of resignation, but instead with open dialogue and an attempt to understand the person on the other side of the issue.

I know which kind of workplace I’d rather join.

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