LGBT and Our New CEO at Mozilla

I, along with a number of other Mozilla employees, have just tweeted that the decision to appoint Brendan Eich to CEO has caused us concern. Why?

I think this deserves a longer form to explain my personal thoughts on the subject.

Mozilla’s culture is one of openness, which is why I am not in fear for my job by expressing my concerns and opinion here or on Twitter. Being incredibly international, Mozilla culture is also exemplified by unconditional tolerance for other views, opinions, religions, and cultures.

I used to work for the Obama campaign, and I work happily alongside Republicans and many libertarians alike. I’m agnostic, but I work perfectly alongside very religious people.

You may be asking yourself right now “But wait…I thought you said that Mozilla was so open to other views, yet you have concerns with the appointment of Brendan Eich as CEO…where is the disconnect?”

Let me explain.

Brendan has been CTO for a very long time, and has been extraordinarily successful. After all, he invented Javascript and co-founded Mozilla in the early days. To say that he is a capable and intelligent person is to understate it. (Note: I’ve not had the opportunity to work directly with him.)

So why wouldn’t I have a problem with Brendan as CTO, while I do have concerns about his role as CEO?

From Wikipedia’s definition of CEO:

(Note: this is not necessarily Mozilla’s definition of CEO.  Not much of the outside-of-Mozilla world knows that, however)
“The communicator role can involve the press and the rest of the outside world, as well as the organization’s management and employees; the decision-making role involves high-level decisions about policy and strategy. As a leader of the company, the CEO/MD advises the board of directors, motivates employees, and drives change within the organization.”

That is a very different role than that of a CTO:
” As a corporate officer position, the CTO typically reports directly to the chief executive officer (CEO) and is primarily concerned with long-term and “big picture” issues (while still having deep technical knowledge of the relevant field).”

A CEO is publicly seen as one of the most visible faces of an organization, and is quite a bit about image, partnerships, and culture, rather than the largely technical role of a CTO.

Unfortunately, right now Brendan’s public image (which is also now in part Mozilla’s public image in his new role) is one showing that he donated money to deny equal rights to the LGBT community during Prop 8 in California.  Note: I fully support Brendan’s right to hold these views and support them financially as he sees fit, even while I vigorously disagree with his views on this issue.

In California, donations to these political groups and causes are public record. Thus, this is no longer just a personally held view, it is now a publicly held view.

As it is a publicly held view it has the potential to reflect on Mozilla. My concern is that it could come across to potential funders, contributors, volunteers, and users of our products that maybe Mozilla *doesn’t* really believe in all the inclusiveness we have prided ourselves in, even if we know we still do.

I am concerned that having Brendan in the role of CEO could send the wrong message to some of the people we want to build the open web with.  Personally, I have had at least 15 former colleagues and friends engage me about how Mozilla could make this move, many of whom have volunteered for Mozilla in the past.

In the opinion of many(myself included), things like equal access to vote, to marry, to have opportunity, or the ability to visit a spouse in the hospital are not matters of politics, but rather human liberty and freedom, things which Mozilla stands for.

Had there been no public donations record indicating he supported Prop8, neither you nor I would have known, and his image as CEO and the image of Mozilla could not suffer. After all, as many articles on the subject have pointed out, Mozilla has an internal culture and benefits package that couldn’t be friendlier to LGBT individuals.

I am very trusting and respectful of Mitchell Baker and the rest of Mozilla management.  Mitchell has worked alongside Brendan for a decade and never knew about their differing opinions on the issue of LGBT rights. I am proud that today, we had a large town hall call to voice our concerns…this is what Mozilla is about.   I don’t personally believe for a second that any management would stand by and allow any policy in our Community Participation Guidelines to regress.

I’m grateful that I have the right to express my concerns on who represents Mozilla both to management and to you.  In the words of Mark Surman, Exec Director of Mozilla Foundation:

“Our culture of openness extends to letting our staff and community be candid about their views on Mozilla’s direction. We’re proud of that inclusiveness and how it distinguishes Mozilla from most organizations. We expect and encourage Mozillians to speak up when they disagree with management decisions, and carefully weigh all input to ensure our actions are advancing the project’s mission.”

This affirms to me why Mozilla is the organization to which I have pledged my heart.

This all warrants discussion, so let us keep this conversation going.  Blog, tweet, and post about what you think.

Other posts worth noting on the subject:

Brendan Eich’s Post

Mitchell Baker’s Post 

Geoffrey MacDougall’s Post

OpenMatt’s Post

Erin Kissane’s Post

 Chris McAvoy’s Post

Matthew MacPherson’s Post 

 

12 thoughts on “LGBT and Our New CEO at Mozilla

  1. Ross

    Mr. Schneider,
    Thank you for posting you opinion on this matter and for being open to discussion. One point to would seem to me to be an extension of your line of thought is a variant of the “heckler’s veto.” Mr. Eich expressed his opinion in the form of a donation approximately six years ago. He did so as a private citizen and not as an expression of corporate policy. He did not bring attention to the fact that he donated. Now intolerant people who oppose his implied point of view want to punish him for having that point of view. I have not seen any suggestion of any change he has advocated that is objectionable. This is solely about a lack of tolerance for a diversity of opinion. You mention that you support his right of free speech but while I respect your sincerity I do not believe that is true. You know the culture at Mozilla better than I do and you seem to be very intellectually honest so I will ask you to seriously consider a question. If you post an answer I will take you at your word because you have a lot more domain expertise than I do and I am in no position to argue. So my question is:

    Do you believe that if an employee would be supported were they to express in a non-Mozilla space that based on their religious beliefs they believed Mr. Eich was correct in opposing gay marriage.?

    Do you believe other Mozillians would “treat this as a private matter, not a Mozilla issue.” as the “Community Participation Guidelines” suggests? Mr. Eich has more power than most and yet he is attacked. Is the junior Systems Analyst or the Secretary going to be respected when the CEO is not? Does attackiing Mr. Eich send a message to conservatives that they are valued and supported as part of the Mozilla community as long as they comply with the Community Participation Guidelines?

    So when you point out that a CEO is the public face of a company and thus their expressed person beliefs reflect on the company I might agree with you if Mr. Eich had expressed opinions that were contrary to his role as CEO. He has not. He has abided by the Community Participation Guidelines and now others, inside the company and out, are failing to follow those guidelines. Many of the people who work at Mozilla have shown they are not tolerant people. They are people with liberal values who want to impose those values on others.

    It is my belief that it is wrong to attack people’s livelihoods based on their personally held opinions. I believe you share that belief. I am not a supporter of “Gay rights” I am a supporter of Human rights. I suspect you and I would adamantly disagree on some issues and agree on many other issues. I also suspect that we are different than most on the Right and Left in that neither of us have any desire to forcibly impose our person beliefs on others. We would rather use respect, awareness, and discussion to win hears and minds. I am sorry to see that are so many people at Mozilla who are so intolerance. They are putting their group identify ahead of the organization. If Mr. Eich publicly supports or opposes Gay Marriage as CEO, then as you have pointed out, that sends a message. If he says nothing the negative publicity caused by the attack of the intolerant continues. Either way, Mozilla risks alienating people over something that has nothing to do with the organizations central purpose.

    Highest Regards,

    Reply
    1. jdotp Post author

      Hi Ross,

      First of all, sorry for the delay in approving your comment, spam had me falling behind in finding real comments. Thanks for your reply and thoughts.

      I appreciate and respect your points, and many of those points are central to the discussion being held publicly as well as internally within Mozilla.

      One of your questions asked what I would feel if a similarly public view was held by a fellow Mozillian. I believe he would be disagreed with by a large majority, though my anecdotal sampling of Mozillians I work with directly is but a fraction of the entire population of Mozillians. But his viewpoint and right to hold that, even as much as any of us vigorously disagreed with it, would not be a point of contention. Just as the Community Guidelines say, we keep that out of the workplace and are (in my opinion) the most inclusive organization I’ve ever had the chance to work in.

      Here was one question I’d like to address:
      “So when you point out that a CEO is the public face of a company and thus their expressed person beliefs reflect on the company I might agree with you if Mr. Eich had expressed opinions that were contrary to his role as CEO. ”
      I suppose that I see the role of CEO as a public face of our organization, and as Mitchell Baker just posted, it is the position of Mozilla that we support equal rights, including LGBT rights. ( https://blog.lizardwrangler.com/2014/03/29/on-mozillas-support-for-marriage-equality/ )
      As tonights OKCupid stand against Mozilla (http://gizmodo.com/okcupid-tells-users-not-to-use-firefox-because-of-ceos-1555616237) and friends of ours developing the open web with us illustrate (http://www.teamrarebit.com/blog/2014/03/24/goodbye_firefox_marketplace/), the image of the organization I believe we need to build and maintain an open web is being called into question.
      He has the rights to his opinions, but as CEO my concern is the image this gives Mozilla and the impact it can have on an organization I believe is crucial in our time.

      Chris McAvoy, a fellow coworker and friend, put it well in his blog post addressing this same subject ( http://weblog.lonelylion.com/2014/03/30/more-context-on-brendan-eichs-appointment-to-ceo/ ):
      “This very public debate about Brendan’s appointment points to a divide in Mozilla’s identity, which I’d characterize as Mozilla as tech company versus Mozilla as activist organization, which is the fundamental reason why I believe the Brendan Eich that contributed to Prop 8 isn’t the CEO that Mozilla needs.”

      Lastly, I don’t want to impose my beliefs on anybody…I’d certainly rather convince them and have a reasoned debate. After all, on some issue or other, I will be wrong, and I’d rather find out about that by admitting I could be wrong. With that said, I vigorously defend the rights of the LGBT community and demand their equality. But I am a very tolerant, big-tent type of person…I am happy to surround myself with people of different views and engage them. By expressing concern at the impact Brendan Eich’s nomination can have, however, I am not demanding or asking him to change his beliefs (though I wish he would). I am simply expressing concern at the impact of this publicly held view will have on the organization I love, and the mission I continue to be dedicated to.

      Reply
  2. Adam

    I’m curious: What was Obama’s stance on gay marriage when you worked for his campaign? Had he changed his position yet? If so, that’s fine; but if not, it would seem hypocritical of you.

    Had there been no public donations record indicating he supported Prop8, neither you nor I would have known, and his image as CEO and the image of Mozilla could not suffer. After all, as many articles on the subject have pointed out, Mozilla has an internal culture and benefits package that couldn’t be friendlier to LGBT individuals.

    To me, saying this shows why Eich should remain CEO: the controversy and image crisis are manufactured. What if no one had bothered to look up his name on the list of donators? It would still be public record, but it’d be sitting in a file cabinet in some California voting commission’s office, and it would be business as usual at Mozilla.

    Yes, it’s public record–that is not the point (although I think this shows why the threshold for public donations needs to be adjusted). The point is that this sets a dangerous precedent in our society. Free speech is a constitutional right–but if people are intimidated by the practice of drawing attention to records of personal political donations by their political opponents, that right is effectively threatened. Of course it’s legal–it’s also free speech–but It’s an underhanded way to leverage the power of modern media and vocal minorities* against people who have merely exercised their rights. It is contrary to the spirit of our constitutional rights.

    Rest assured, this sort of thing works both ways. What goes around comes around. And the one who starts it going around will have his complaints fall on deaf ears when it’s his turn.

    * I think it’s legitimate to call it a vocal minority because there are even gay people living in civil unions who don’t demand “gay marriage.” If these people don’t have a problem with Eich, why do you?

    Reply
    1. jdotp Post author

      Thanks for your thoughts Adam.

      Regarding your question about Obama’s official stance on gay marriage when I joined his campaign team, he was not currently in favor of it. We have analog politics in a digital world, and I strongly felt that the LGBT community would clearly best be served with Obama as President. I was proud on the day he publicly came out in favor of equal rights…it was one of my proudest days on the campaign in fact.

      I certainly agree with you that free speech needs to be protected in the eyes of the law, but I believe that public figures are (rightly) held to a different standard. While I vigorously support his right to hold beliefs he chooses and donate as he sees fit, the public image consequences of such a stand against equal rights feels like it runs contrary to Mozilla’s stated positions….thus my concerns.

      I am not certain of the support vs. against %’s like in a campaign scenario, but I can tell you that based on what I see on twitter and okcupid, there are certainly a number of concerned individuals. Regardless, my priority is ensuring the mission of Mozilla is seen to fruition, and concern for that mission and my organization.

      Reply
  3. egnt

    Well, for someone who doesn’t want to “impose (your) beliefs on anybody”, you sure set a nice precedent that anyone who disagrees with you should be fired.
    How do you feel about how all this turned out?

    Reply
    1. jdotp Post author

      My hope was that Brendan would reconcile his views, at least publicly, with the stated policies of our organization. Of course I am not happy. My goal was to have a dialogue publicly, not to have Brendan step away from Mozilla. He is a great person, really a legend.

      In todays world, the public views of public figures require directly addressing the issue. It may not seem fair, and maybe it is not, but it is nonetheless the world we live in.

      Reply
      1. egnt

        So you wanted to browbeat him until he recanted, then forgive him for his heresy? No wonder you’re upset: that strategy never works.
        Congratulations, you’ve made him a martyr, and you’ve made my job much harder. Now I have to convince all my friends and neighbors that the same thing won’t happen to them for beliefs they held a decade ago… and I’m not sure I can honestly assure it.

        Reply
      2. Carlos Araya

        How intolerant that is.

        The whole mess, starting with rarebit and okcupid, following up with employee tweets and ending on Brendan’s resignation smacks so much of what the tea party and the religious right would have done if the situation had been reversed.

        Here are my questions:

        Did this factor in your thought process: https://brendaneich.com/2014/03/inclusiveness-at-mozilla/
        Why does he have to reconcile the views now, wasn’t the controversy of when the information was first released enough?
        Why does he have to reconcile his views with the company at all?

        For a company that prides itself on inclusiveness and acceptance you failed miserably

        Reply
        1. jdotp Post author

          I appreciate your thoughts, and understand them.
          My concern was with the numerous orgs and groups that want to work with us, rather than with his personal views(though I believe those views are fundamentally about equality, not politics, and do not agree with Brendan on them). Unfortunately, the public facing role of a CEO is about the public, and public donations/support have the capacity to impact the reputation of an organization.
          I definitely read and appreciated his post you mentioned, and it was the first post I link to. However, I did not see it as directly addressing the issue to employees and partner organizations. Did you?
          Acknowledging how his donation hurt families that work for us/partner with us, and acknowledging their equality from his new role would have been the ideal outcome for me… or alternatively my hope was for his return to the CTO role. Unfortunately, his choice was to not address the issue at all. That was certainly within his rights as a citizen, but as a CEO I wish he would have foreseen the coming public outcry and addressed it directly…even if I didn’t agree with his opinion.
          On a personal level, I quite feel for Brendan. This should have been the best week of his life, and he deserved to be brimming with pride for leading the organization he helped build.
          I know it is not a clear cut nor an easy issue; it was not easy internally, nor was it easy publicly.

          Reply
  4. Rabiya Limbada

    Hello

    My name is Rabiya and I am a producer for the BBC World Service radio programme, World Have Your Say. On today’s show we are talking about the appointment of Brendan Eich. We are asking, should CEOs lose their jobs over their personal beliefs? It would be really interesting to get you involved in the conversation, would you be interested in taking part?

    Do get back to me as soon as you can

    Rabiya

    Reply
    1. jdotp Post author

      Hi Rabiya,

      I’ve said my piece, and like much of Mozilla and its partners, I had my concerns.
      For any press on the issue, please contact erica at mozillafoundation.org.

      Thanks,
      JP

      Reply
  5. Adam Collyer

    “Mozilla’s culture is one of openness”

    It seems that is only true for people who share your opinions. In Britain Mr Eich would have been able to sue Mozilla for sacking him on such flimsy grounds.

    It seems that you don’t really believe in free speech. You believe in the freedom to express your own liberal views, which by the way are the prevailing orthodoxy in the US but not everywhere.

    I don’t agree with Mr Eich on gay marriage, by the way. But this is not about your precious US Constitution. It is about the moral principle of freedom of speech, which entirely underpins democracy itself.

    Reply

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