Intel CEO advocates making room for religion in Silicon Valley

October 21, 2022

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger in 1985 urged Silicon Valley companies to put more emphasis on facilitating safe spaces for religion in the workplace at the event “The Role of Faith in business in Silicon Valley”, which was held on Thursday.

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At the event, sponsored by the Rock Center for Governance, Gelsinger was joined by a panel of experts at Paul Brest Hall to discuss how faith has changed for employees and companies in Silicon Valley. Speakers discussed how companies can facilitate faith and define a company’s role in developing a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion within and outside of their organizations.

Gelsinger opened the event with a fireside chat about how he tried to see the world through various perspectives.

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“I grew up in the most homogeneous area of ​​Pennsylvania,” he said, referring to his upbringing in Robesonia. “Because I grew up in such a homogeneous environment, as a leader, you have to belittle yourself. I realized that relationships triumph over results, and I lived my life as if results triumphed over relationships.

He said pressure was growing on business leaders to take charge of social issues and challenged that idea saying he “must not be the social conscience of the nation”.

“I present the issues through the topic of things that are important to us as a company,” Gelsinger said. Take for example Black Lives Matter. Are we doing enough for historically black universities through the lens of what matters to me?

In 2021, Intel has pledged to donate $5 million over the next five years at North Carolina Central University, a historically black university, to create a new center for technology law and policy.

Attendees at the event said they were happy to learn more about religious diversity in the tech industry. They said they came away with new approaches to resolving conflicts involving culture and tradition in their respective businesses.

Yiyi Jin, general counsel at News Break, participated in the program because she was excited to learn more about the topic of the event. She said the comments and stats shared by the speakers helped her broaden her view of diversity and inclusion in the industry.

“Companies need to think about their diversity and inclusion,” she said.

The second part of the program included a panel discussion moderated by law and business professor Robert Daines.

University of California, Berkeley Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies Carolyn Chen, who was on the panel, opened the discussion by talking about her research findings that religious workers in Silicon Valley are struggling to balance their faith and their professional life.

“I noticed a really striking difference between tech workers who were religious and those who weren’t,” Chen said. She found that most religious workers reported not sharing their cultural identity with others – a problem when the work “is an important source of spirituality and a sense of mission”. Chen also said that “tech workers go to work on their own…Religious workers in the United States [don’t] have time to join two religious communities.

At the end of the panel, she asked the audience, “Do you make your faith fit into your work? Or do you make your work match your faith? »

Garrett Johnson, who co-founded cloud hosting service Hydra Host and Lincoln Network, also shared his research on the Bay Area tech industry. According to Johnson, almost half of the people surveyed in his research identified themselves as atheists or agnostics, which is much higher than the national rate.

Johnson said the number is concerning to faith communities across the country because “the tech industry shapes the culture so much.”

Jordana Stein, editor and founder of Enrich, a private network that connects clients with peers in similar roles at different companies, said she saw “two perspectives coming together” on the panel.

“The first is for the company to adopt a position that creates a strong culture where everyone feels very clear about where the organization stands. [about religious diversity]Stein said. She said the second, “more common” perspective is to create support groups and programs for different social identities.

The main distinction lies in whether the leaders of an organization should take full initiative to create diversity and inclusion or help facilitate the communities that workers create among themselves.

The program ended with closing remarks from David W. Miller, director of Princeton’s Faith & Work initiative.

He said big tech companies should make room for all religious traditions.

“From atheism to Zoroastrian, they all need to have a place at the table and an equal seat in order to create an environment of passivity and respect, not just tolerance as a minimum standard, Miller said.


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