Since Mozilla appointed its former CTO Brendan Eich as CEO last week, the company been caught up in a whirlwind of controversy.
Eich donated $US1,00 to Prop 8 in 2008 — the California bill that deemed gay marriage illegal — and some members of the Mozilla community have said this contradicts the company’s values of openness and inclusion.
Eich doesn’t feel that way, however. In an interview with Stephen Shankland at CNET, Eich said personal beliefs are checked “at the door” when coming to work at Mozilla:
“It may be challenging for a CEO, but everyone in our community can have different beliefs about all sorts of things that may be in conflict. They leave them at the door when they come to work on the Mozilla mission.”
For Eich, Mozilla’s principle of inclusiveness also means including everyone regardless of what their beliefs are. If this doesn’t uphold, the company is doomed, Eich said during the interview.
“If Mozilla cannot continue to operate according to its principles of inclusiveness, where you can work on the mission no matter what your background or other beliefs, I think we’ll probably fail.”
Last week a few Mozilla employees urged Eich to step down almost immediately after he was appointed as CEO. Eich co-founded the company in 1998 and his donation to Prop 8 was made public in 2012, but there was no backlash until he transitioned into the role of CEO.
The controversy extends far beyond Mozilla’s own employees. Earlier this week popular dating platform OK Cupid displayed a message urging its users to switch to another browser when visiting the website in Firefox. A petition urging Eich to either reverse his stance on LGBT rights or step down has amassed more than 70,000 signatures in less than a week.
In his interview with CNET, Eich acknowledged that he had hurt members of the LGBT community, but also said that he shouldn’t be judged by his personal values.
When people learned of the donation, they felt pain. I saw that in friends’ eyes, [friends] who are LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered]. I saw that in 2012. I am sorry for causing that pain…I would be asked to be judged, like I would judge other company executives, by my conduct and how I comport myself in my role.
In general, Eich said personal and religious values shouldn’t interfere with a CEO’s professional duties:
Beliefs that are protected, that include political and religious speech, are generally not something that can be held against even a CEO.
Although Eich made it clear that he doesn’t intend to change his stance because it’s not “good for my or Mozilla’s integrity,” he shared plans for a new LGBT-focused initiative with CNET. The effort, called Project Ascend, sounds as if it would help people in the LGBT community in “less than ideal” living situations find work within Mozilla.
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