Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Web Summit: Freedom of religion in the tech business

17 Oct, 2017
  •    “Davos for geeks” – Bloomberg
  •    “The best tech conference on the planet” – Forbes
  •    “The giants of the web assemble” – Wall Street Journal
  •    “It defines the ecosystem” – The Guardian

On November 8 Brian Grim, President of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, will address freedom of religion in the tech business as an invited speaker at the world’s largest web technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal.*

Religious freedom in the workplace

The most successful businesses encourage an environment in which employees can bring their “full self” to work. Employees need to feel comfortable being who they are in the workplace, including being true to their core identity and beliefs. That includes recognizing and respecting an employee’s religion and its practice.

In today’s increasingly more competitive business environment, companies will need to draw upon the talent and experience of every employee. They can’t afford to leave anyone out. If they exclude or alienate someone for reasons having nothing to do with a person’s ability to do the job, they might also be excluding the next great business solution or the next great product idea. The very thing a company might need for its success. At the very least, they’ll be missing out on lots of really great talent.

And as companies become increasingly more global, they’ll need employees who reflect the increasing diversity of their customers. They’ll need employees who can relate to the daily experience of customers and who can see the customer point of view. For potentially billions of customers, religious belief and practice are a part of daily life. Having employees who understand that will not only help companies avoid costly missteps, it will also help companies develop products and services better tailed to customer needs. That’s an essential part of being competitive.

Religiously Diverse Tech Business

And the tech industry is extremely religiously diverse. For example, the Guardian recently profiled Silicon Valley as home to some of Christian Evangelicalism’s most innovative new, Hipster congregations.

But beyond Christianity, Silicon Valley is perhaps one of the most religiously diverse places in the U.S. The Silicon Valley Interfaith Association notes that the region “is home to some 50 Buddhist centers, the largest Sikh Gurdwara in North America, a Jain temple, a Silicon Valley “store front” (converted technology assembly plant) mosque whose Friday prayer service draws over 3000 participants, several Hindu centers that host cultural programs and religious ceremonies, one of the Zoroastrian fire temples in North America, numerous Baha’i spiritual assemblies, and synagogues—reflecting the fact that the Valley is home to one of the most religiously diverse landscapes in North America. The percentage of individuals who identify with faith traditions other than Christianity—10%– is double that of the United States; but we also have a higher percentage of residents—17%–who identify themselves as non-affiliated compared to other parts of the country.”

Faith and the Internet

Christopher Helland points out, religious actors themselves are also quite tech savvy.

Faith & the InternetFaith & the Internet

Christopher Helland, Associate Professor, Dalhousie University, Canada

Our world is undergoing massive transformations thanks to developments in internet and communication technologies. As Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum has noted, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is well under way and there is a dire need to develop a “shared view of how technology is affecting our lives and reshaping our economic, social, cultural, and human environments.”

Despite the enormous cultural and societal transformations associated with the technological developments of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, faith and religious practices continue to be important components of our wired world.

 Pope & Climate ChangeThe Pope & Climate Change

Christopher Helland, Associate Professor, Dalhousie University, Canada

“The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. – Pope Francis”

When Pope Francis finally released his encyclical on the environment, the world seemed ready to listen. In fact, for over a year, there had been so much hype over the anticipated, immense document that a single line went viral within minutes. The statement above was tweeted by the Pope on 18 June and seemed ideal for engaging all concerned and for communicating his unease. Within hours, his tweet was shared more than 30,000 times and it was quoted and referenced in more than 430,000 news articles. Throughout the day, the Pope continued to tweet short statements from his 183-page text, savvily inundating the online world, to the point at which almost everyone on the web that day was aware of the event.

* Web Summit started as a simple idea in 2010: Let’s connect the technology community with all industries, both old and new. It seemed to resonate. Web Summit has grown to become the “largest technology conference in the world”.

No conference has ever grown so large so fast. But we also pride ourselves in organising the “best technology conference on the planet”. In six short years, Web Summit has grown from 400 attendees to over 60,000 attendees from more than 150 countries. No technology conference has ever grown so large so fast.

Web Summit has become “Europe’s largest and most important technology marketplace”. An unrivalled global meeting place for the world’s most disruptive technology companies and those interested in how that disruption can transform their businesses and their lives.

Over 2,000 media from more than 100 markets came to Web Summit in 2016. It’s not just editors from many of the world’s most influential publications, but market-shaping industry reporters from leading technology and trade publications and blogs.