• A new survey from the Lincoln Network exposes the state of viewpoint inclusion in the tech industry.
  • Based on the comments pulled from survey respondents, there seems to be trend of conservative voices more often being silenced and less welcome.
  • Respondents overwhelmingly agreed, however, that tech companies in general should foster a diversity of viewpoints.

The state of viewpoint diversity in tech

The Lincoln Network, a nonprofit that brings together technologists and innovators to converse, collaborate, and effect change, released a new survey last week studying viewpoint inclusion in the tech industry.

While Silicon Valley has a reputation for its progressivism, the survey found that viewpoint diversity in the tech industry is actually fairly broad. Out of nearly 2,000 workers surveyed, a full third of respondents identified as moderate, with similar proportions identifying as liberal or very liberal (32 percent) and conservative or very conservative (29 percent).

Taking a cue from the Heterodox Academy, the Lincoln Network defines 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.”

Based on the comments pulled from survey respondents, true inclusion appears to be an issue for many companies. Specifically, there seems to be trend of conservative voices more often being silenced and less welcome.

“Affirmation, pleasure, delight, and approval are consistently and publicly given to progressive views, while sneering, sarcasm, and a feeling of a finger being tapped on one’s chest occurs when different views are expressed,” wrote one respondent who identified as a moderate.

“I don’t think that the majority of SF Bay Area tech employees actively support the left/progressive/liberal/Democrat agenda. Employees are either silenced by intimidation or are just indifferent, wishing only to make a good living in their chosen profession without jumping into politics or creating drama in their work life,” wrote a conservative respondent.

“The problem is you simply don’t know what is going to cause the next outrage mob; once it starts, you’re in big trouble.”

The findings are particularly chilling at companies that promote a political agenda. Nearly half of respondents said they worked at such a company. In these cases, 49 percent said their ideological views in the context of their workplace affected their ability to do their work. For workers at companies with no political agenda, only nine percent said their ideological views affected their ability to work.

The survey also found, unsurprisingly, that viewpoint hostility increased at companies promoting a political agenda. Among these companies, 63 percent of respondents reported that colleagues “ridicule/ostracize other colleagues with whom they disagree.” That figure drops to just 21 percent at companies with no political agenda.

“The standard with which we are expected to treat each other is overtly and unapologetically progressive and liberal,” wrote one liberal respondent. “I don’t consider it 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.”

Again unsurprisingly, the survey results found that employees are more than twice as likely to fear disagreeing with colleagues at companies promoting a political agenda. This held true whether the respondent agreed or disagreed with their company’s political agenda.

Survey takeaways

The Lincoln Network was careful not to suggest any direct policy actions to correct bias in the workplace exposed by its survey.

“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,” said an FAQ about the survey provided by the Lincoln Network.

That said, its findings highlight a number of important trends. Namely, it found that collectivism is on the rise on both the far left and far right, with more than 60 percent of both very liberal and very conservative respondents agreeing that group rights are more important than individual rights.

Those on the far left (39 percent) and far right (48 percent) also reported the highest rates of knowing someone who did not pursue or left a career in tech because of perceived ideological conflicts with their company.

The one question that every group overwhelmingly agreed on was that tech companies in general should foster a diversity of viewpoints. Each group affirmed this with majorities ranging from 87 to 95 percent.

“I feel that there is a balance of taking a stand as an individual and as a company, and that looks different from one company to another. There should be an independent outside HR organization that should be able to have an unbiased opinion on how leaders and employees are handling inclusivity of all views,” one moderate respondent concluded.

Image Credit: Photo by Saksham Gangwar on Unsplash