The State of Viewpoint Inclusion in The Tech Industry

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Demographics at a Glance

In general, the demographic composition reflects the same patterns found in other surveys of technology workers in the US. About half of the sample (51%) was between the ages of 30 and 44.

1,924
Total Surveyed
Men

75%

Women

25%

Technical 84%
Non-technical 16%

Ideological Split

Liberal
Moderate
Conservative

The Atmosphere Today

Companies Promoting a Political Agenda Are More Likely to Have a Hostile Work Environment

Do your ideological views in the context of your workplace affect your ability to do your work?

Yes, somewhat or significantly
No, not at all

Viewpoint Hostility Increases at Companies Promoting a Political Agenda

Do half or more of your colleagues ridicule/ostracize other colleagues with whom they disagree?

Yes, half or more
No, less than half

Basically, you have to keep a facade and just smile, nod when comments you deeply disagree with are made because of the monoculture. It's a very isolating and ostracizing environment. There's no break from it sometimes ... Just walking to lunch even the surrounding strangers give no rest with their constant negative talking against my views. It can be very disheartening.

--

Conservative respondent

It seems like the organization is configured to honor the "aggrieved veto" -- if someone indicates that a particular viewpoint is hostile or offensive, it can be dangerous to voice that viewpoint or even say that people who have that viewpoint should be permitted to speak.

--

Moderate respondent

The standard with which we are expected to treat each other is overtly and unapologetically progressive and liberal… I don't consider this standard necessarily incompatible with externally-facing political neutrality, either, but there is no charge from management to distinguish what's enforced on users from what's enforced on coworkers, at least not one I consider clear enough to address what I see as a moral hazard.

--

Liberal respondent

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Viewpoint FAQs

What is “viewpoint inclusion”? How is it related to “viewpoint diversity”?

We see “viewpoint inclusion” as the active, intentional practice of fostering a positive work environment for all employees that emphasizes “intellectual humility, empathy, trust, and curiosity,” and empowers colleagues to affirm each other’s value to the company irrespective of personal views or political ideology. It’s how a company sets policies or establishes a culture that promotes inclusiveness. “Viewpoint diversity,” on the other hand, is the what. It’s the state of the community or group, and a measure of who’s staying and who’s being recruited.

What was the methodology used for the survey?

Lincoln Network partnered with the research technology company Morning Consult to design and implement a national survey of technology professionals in the United States. Data collection began in October 2018 and ended in November 2018. Potential respondents were shown a list of industries and asked to select the one that best described their place of employment. Only the answers from those who selected "Technology Industry" were included in the current report.

The survey was designed to capture a broad sample of technical and non-technical technology employees in the United States.

Most respondents (66%) worked for privately held tech companies, but many were from publicly traded companies (34%). About 56% of respondents worked at a company that employed more than 500 employees. 18% worked for publicly traded companies with a market cap over $50 billion. Respondents were mostly male (75%), and about half of the sample (49%) was between the ages of 30 and 44. In general, the demographic composition reflects the same patterns found in other surveys of technology workers in the US.

Lincoln Network also reached out to its own network of technology professionals asking people to tell us about their experiences in the tech industry in an open, online survey. Quotes from this are used to supplement the Morning Consult survey data.

Why should we trust these findings?

Lincoln Network has endeavored to conduct this survey in an open and scientifically rigorous manner from the beginning of the project. As part of our research process, we contracted with Morning Consult as an independent party to collect all of the quantitative data. In addition, all of the data has been made publicly available under a Creative Commons license (CC BY 4.0) so that everyone is free to explore and analyze the dataset themselves. Click here to access the dataset.

Does promoting viewpoint inclusion undermine or distract from efforts focused on gender, sexual orientation, race, or other diversity initiatives?

Viewpoint inclusion is complementary, rather than contradictory, to other diversity and inclusion initiatives. We strongly believe diversity in the workplace — including race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, ability, and other traits — better serves both employees and companies. A workplace culture that encourages differing viewpoints should be an essential component of this mix.

Shouldn’t tech companies be able to determine their workplace cultural norms?

Yes. We fully support the right of private organizations to set cultural norms, including terminating employees for cultural fit issues. And any employee that exhibits racist, sexist, homophobic, or bigoted behavior unquestionably has no place in a healthy and inclusive workforce. Viewpoint inclusion should never be construed to endorse bigotry or discrimination.

We also believe that expressing viewpoints in opposition to left-wing ideology shouldn’t reflexively be treated as controversial or problematic. Talented people come from all backgrounds, and innovation thrives when diverse perspectives are freely spoken without judgement or professional repercussions.

Is there a government solution?

No, and we’re not even sure what that would look like. We are firmly opposed to heavy-handed government intervention on this and a range of other issues confronting the tech industry. The solutions can, and should, come from company leaders who want their workplace cultures to thrive.

How is viewpoint inclusion connected to allegations of anti-conservative bias on tech platforms?

The viewpoint inclusion survey looks only at workplace culture. It doesn’t make any claims about bias on companies’ products and services. However, we think it’s important to expand on this point.

This past year has been one of heightened tension between conservative policymakers and technology companies. A significant part of this tension is related to perceptions of anti-conservative bias, both on online platforms and in companies’ workplace culture.

Where do these perceptions come from? The Bay Area, where many major tech companies are located, is a very liberal place. Pew Ranked San Francisco as the most liberal big city in America. In 2016, only 9.4% of San Francisco County voted for Donald Trump, compared with 85.5% for Hillary Clinton. The surrounding counties that make up Silicon Valley have a similar political orientation.

It should be no surprise, then, that conservatives have anxieties about the ideological orientation of technology companies. But are they genuinely biased against conservatives? Our research on viewpoint inclusion attempts to answer that question with respect to the workplace, and ground the conversation in real data. As conservatives and libertarians working in Silicon Valley, we have numerous anecdotes and personal experiences that testify to this.

On the other hand, we think there is weak evidence for systemic anti-conservative bias in online platforms’ content and moderation policies. We shouldn’t assume that incidents never happen, or that the liberal priors of tech companies don’t influence their policies in subtle ways. That being said, most incidents that make it into the news are, unfortunately, of conservatives crying wolf. They either don't understand the underlying technology, or make arguments that fall apart upon close inspection.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t be concerned, or scrutinizing tech companies’ behavior. There are troubling issues in how content moderation policies have evolved, and it’s fair to demand greater transparency and accountability from online platforms.

Why do you care so much about viewpoint inclusion?

Even before Lincoln Network existed, its founders had personal experiences with intolerance related to their their libertarian and conservative views while working in Silicon Valley. Lincoln’s first official event in 2013, a “liberty hackathon,” was also embroiled in controversy just for being center-right – as this Buzzfeed article details. Unfortunately the toxicity and vitriol around these issues has only grown worse in the Trump era.

We are working on this issue because we are committed to making the tech industry a more open and intellectually diverse place. This is about more than just politics – it’s about allowing people to be heterodox or contrarian, and breaking up the monoculture of ideas. When a plurality of different viewpoints are welcome, the best ideas can rise to the top and spur innovation. “Thinking different” is something that’s at the heart of Silicon Valley’s success, and we want to preserve the freedom to do it.

As tech companies face increasing scrutiny for their negative influence on our democracy, we also think they’d benefit from modeling a more empathetic, tolerant space within their own workplace environments.

What are companies doing to address lack of viewpoint inclusivity? Have they acknowledged this as a problem?

Since announcing the findings from our pilot survey and recommendations in early 2018, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has conceded that they have created an environment where conservative employees “don’t feel safe to express their opinions.” Facebook has commissioned a study to investigate potential bias against conservatives, and some of its employees have complained publicly about the lack of political diversity.

Is the underlying data available?

Yes, you can access the dataset on the Open Science Framework website. Other researchers are free to reuse, repurpose and utilize it under a CC BY 4.0 license.