This started out as the lead in to a petition at the outset of the 2012 elections. I never got around to following through on that. Why? Because… fuck petitions. Anyway, in light of the SCOTUS ruling on DOMA today, I revisited the draft that had I started. I decided to instead turn it into a blog entry. This is just my limited, personal perspective on the issue as someone who’s had the opportunity to work with and learn from all sorts of people.
I’ve worked in the high tech industry since 1989. The first company I worked for was very forward-thinking and inclusive (and based in CA). Their goal was to to attract, nurture and keep talented people. They did so regardless of their ethnicity, belief systems, or sexual orientation. They were early to provide health benefits to “domestic partners” – a benefit that was not only leveraged by same-sex couples, but also by people in unmarried committed partnerships of other kinds. The freedom for people to express their true selves extended beyond typical ‘hot button’ issues and also included things like flexible work hours for people with children, and bringing pets to work and more. These initiatives all came from the company’s commitment to honoring the unique value that each contributor brought to the table. They knew that this was an equitable way to get the best effort from their workforce. They offered a lot, and they got even more in return.
The bottom line is that the computer device you are reading this on, and the software that makes it run, would not be possible without the contributions of a notable percentage of GLBT, religiously diverse, and non-theist people. Thanks to the open environment that I feel many exemplary technology companies foster, the tech industry is in a unique position to stand as both a beacon of success and example of inclusiveness for the rest of the country.
Some of the things that certain political candidates, public figures and other groups in the media spotlight say and do, are undeniably hurtful to some of our fellow Americans. More disturbing, however, is the relatively muted response from tech professionals in a position to meet this wave of discrimination with an equal if not superior expression of opposition.
Prominent figures in the technology sector need to continue to stand up for Americans facing discrimination, now more than ever. It’s not enough to leave the heavy lifting to “user-generated content”. The leaders and employees of the companies that build these platforms also need to leverage their unique position to speak out. You cannot allow the hateful speech being bantered about, to stand unopposed. Especially when it denigrates the people who make your companies successful. Without the fair treatment and trust of 100% of your workforce, you have no equity and you offer little shareholder value.
Whether you are a C-level executive, a tech analyst, or an influential blogger – do something. Take a few minutes to step away from writing about the latest mobile app privacy blunder, and voice your opinion when you hear public figures saying things that are hurtful to your colleagues. Why aren’t we blacking out our websites and services in protest of intolerance, as well as regulatory threats? You have a louder megaphone than you might think, so use it.
A U.S. citizen’s fifth amendment rights should work the same in any state, just like your precious little smartphone data plans do. Today is a small step forward, but we must continue to push back until there’s nationwide consistency in the recognition of equal rights. We have the case studies of how to do inclusiveness, we have the proof. If you actually read this far, then thanks for your consideration.