What Do Diversity and Inclusion Mean at Cisco Systems?

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Can someone help me understand what diversity means at Cisco Systems?

1. Frank Turek, a management and team-building trainer, was dismissed by Cisco for reasons completely unrelated to his job performance.

2. The reason for his dismissal was his religious and political views, none of which was ever brought up on the job.

3. Cisco loudly trumpets its value of inclusion and diversity.

4. The company has reportedly failed to respond to private and open letters asking how this firing reflects a mindset of diversity and inclusion.

5. Cisco’s Senior Director of Inclusion and Diversity reportedly “refused to do anything to address the cultural factors that contributed to the firing, she refused to even consider the possibility that the Cisco culture was decidedly tilted toward intolerant political correctness—the soil from which the firing sprouted.”

6. This same executive, Mary Nagel, is reported to have said, “Our culture is very welcoming of all points of view. We don’t have any particular political perspective on the issues of same-sex marriage or any of the other issues.” Yet Frank Turek was fired because of his views on this issue. She is also reported to have said,

Because we believe that it has to be an employee environment where everyone is welcome, we do discourage discussions around strongly held political beliefs or religious beliefs in group settings within Cisco other than certain forums, and so we’re very sensitive about protecting our culture of acceptance of everyone, we don’t want anyone to ever feel excluded and that means all opinions, and I really believe that’s what inclusion is all about….

There is a reason that we don’t have political discussions on our campus, and that is because we find that they can be divisive and so we choose to allow people to have those conversations informally or off campus.

7. Frank Turek had never initiated any of these “discouraged” discussions.

8. Turek not only felt excluded on the basis of his opinions, he was literally shown the door.

9. Cisco’s policy of discouraging such discussions was not applied to this LGBT discussion.

10. Cisco not only opened its doors for this discussion; a senior executive, the company’s vice-president of segment marketing, led part of it.

11. There is no sign there was anyone there to represent diversity in the form of differing points of view.

12. My search of the company’s website for any comparably open door to Christian gatherings turned up nothing.

13. My search of the company’s website for any comparable Christians’ advocates network also turned up nothing.

14. Another vice-president (small business marketing) is listed on Cisco’s website under “Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender and Advocates Network.” He serves on the board of GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network).

15. Cisco’s Inclusion and Diversity Executive Board lists no place for any religious group or interest.

16. Ms. Nagel reportedly told Frank Turek and Mike Adams, “We appreciate that people bring differences as long as they don’t make others feel unwelcome or act in a manner that’s disrespectful toward others, so I appreciate your feeling about this and your concern and I can only suggest that you take a look at some of the stuff that we put on our website.”

17. Cisco’s website displays one of its invited speakers, a gay politician, urging a “no” vote on Proposition 8.

18. Numbers 6,16, and 17 are difficult to square with each other.

19. One journalist’s conclusion:

So Cisco, which claims to take no position on same-sex marriage, invites in and pays gay politicians and gay activists to speak in favor of same-sex marriage. You do this in a “forum” held on the Cisco campus and led by a Cisco Vice President – a “collaboration forum”, which does not collaborate with a speaker from the other side of a politically divisive issue. And yet those who have spoken against same-sex marriage, off campus and not in any way representing Cisco, are fired.

20. My phone call to Ms. Nagel’s office was not answered, and my message requesting a callback was not returned.

I have spoken with Frank Turek about this. I will have more to share about his perspective—which I guarantee will not be what you expect—in an upcoming blog post.

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22 Responses to “ What Do Diversity and Inclusion Mean at Cisco Systems? ”

  1. Should we be surprised at this. How many times have we witnessed that “inclusive” means that only for those that they agree with.

  2. Just a note: I don’t think the site linked on Point 17 contains an explicit political statement. It displays a photo of people carrying “No on proposition 8” signs. But the page itself doesn’t explicitly advocate a political position.
    -Neil

  3. Turek is not an employee of Cisco; he’s merely an outside vendor and Cisco is not obligated to buy what he’s selling.

    Funny how people who says busineses should have the right to fire employees for being gay then turn around and claim that businesses don’t have the right to avoid vendors that are anti-gay.

    Cisco doesn’t want to be associated with an anti-gay bigot any more than it would want to be associated with a member of the KKK.

  4. Kathleen,

    Thank you for visiting. Neither Frank Turek nor I think that businesses should fire anyone for being gay. A person’s disposition is not the issue, his or her character and job-relevant behavior are the issues.

    Funny how you jumped to a stereotyped, prejudiced, and false opinion about one or both of us. Please define what you mean by “bigot” in this context.

  5. Additionally, Kathleen,

    There is strong evidence of hypocrisy at Cisco with respect to their inclusion and diversity policies. Cisco is obviously not obligated to buy Turek’s services, but the fact that they released him for the reason that they did, when they were well satisfied with the service he was delivering, still indicates hypocrisy on their part. It would seem that a consistently applied policy of diversity and inclusion would amount to a self-chosen obligation never to fire an employee, release a vendor, or even cut off a supplier solely on account of their religious and political views.

    Your comment seeks to deflect attention from Cisco’s inconsistency on that policy. Either that, or else you think what you wrote in your closing paragraph really justifies their actions.

  6. There is of course a larger issue here. I’ll put it in the form of a question. Does any reader here know of any workplace where “diversity” or “inclusion” include a welcome for conservative Christianity?

    I expect there are some such companies. I think they’re in the minority. I’m open to being corrected on that.

  7. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    I bring that up because it seems to me that “diversity” and “inclusion” as used in this sort of context no longer mean a welcome for people of all viewpoints. Instead, they mean to stress that they welcome particular groups of people, such as homosexuals.

    Now, if Cisco is anxious to present a gay-friendly front to the world, I can see how retaining the services of someone like Frank Turek, who couldn’t be part of that front, would be problematic. Nevertheless, then, “diversity” and “inclusion” are, or ought to be, the wrong words for the company to use. It’s at best violence to language, and at worst an attempt to shut down debate. I mean, if the only way you can be “inclusive” and value “diversity” is to push for normalisation of homosexual practice and formal recognition of homosexual relationships, then obviously conservative Christians and others opposed are narrow-minded and exclude people. And no-one wants to be in that category, right?

    But there’s another problem. Kathleen suggests that some views are so repugnant that their holders don’t deserve to be protected by a commitment to “diversity” in any event. In an employment context, that might come up as an issue if a person’s views are so outrageous that mere association with that person would harm the employer’s public image. That could be evaluated as a business decision. But otherwise, how do you assess someone as a “bigot” worthy of dismissal? Personal antipathy? “I merely dislike Alice’s opinions, so she’s safe, but I hate Bob’s, and I absolutely loathe Charlie’s – I don’t value diversity that much!” Public support? “Alice’s views are supported by 60% of the population, and the other 40% don’t really care. She’s OK. But only 10% of people agree with Bob, and the other 90% of people hate what he stands for. Thus, he’s a bigot worthy of dismissal.”

  8. “I hope he plans on suing.”

    Suppose another scenario. Suppose the organization fired a vendor who privately funded and supported gay marriage and his/her private matters had nothing to do with his/her provision of services to the company. But upon a complaint from a Christian employee, the HR director fires the vendor while simultaneously touting the Company’s values of tolerance, diversity, plurality, and inclusion.

    The fired vendor wouldn’t sue, would she/he?

  9. Tom Gilson asks: “Can someone help me understand what diversity means at Cisco Systems?

    Are you familiar with the term “Orwellian”?

    If so, the term “diversity” might be better understood in an Orwellian context commonly found in a self-congratulating, Liberal Political Correctness atmosphere.

    Or was Tom Gilson’s question a rhetorical question?

  10. How many times have we witnessed that “inclusive” means that only for those that they agree with. Of course, this kind of inclusiveness goes along with some name calling.

    “Cisco doesn’t want to be associated with an anti-gay bigot…”

  11. A lawsuit is the proper response. These things need to be taken to the Courts and settled there. Precedents need to be set.

  12. TUAD #13 has it exactly right. I work for a large corporation that would be right at home with Cisco’s actions.

    “inclusion” and “diversity” have been redefined to be better sounding euphemisms for “promoting a politically correct agenda.”

    Anyone planning to work for a large corporation should forget about getting an MBA and just read George Orwell’s complete works instead. You’ll be much better prepared for corporate life.

  13. It is so sad to see how the message of Jesus Christ has been co-opted over the years to support so many aggressive, mean spirited and sinful political views.

    We saw it in the American South — how in living memory pastors would advocate for miscegenation laws and how in South Africa the Dutch Reformed Church would provide religious justification for apartheid.

    So, it is sad but not a surprise to see Mr. Turek attempt to cloak his abhorrent political views as religious belief.

  14. Alyosha,

    The analogy with anti-miscegenation laws and apartheid is emotionally powerful but otherwise of no value in this discussion. To discriminate against a behavior is not the same as discriminating against a skin color.

    And even if it was, there’s nothing behind your analogy anyway. It’s just words, just sloganeering. It’s empty of everything but emotion. Consider this variation:

    “It is so sad to see how the message of Jesus Christ has been co-opted over the years to support so many aggressive, mean spirited, and political views. We saw it in the American South and in South Africa, and now we see it in Alyosha who is attempting to cloak his/her abhorrent political views as religious belief.”

    I challenge you to show how your analogy applies any more accurately than mine.

    By the way: who has been the political aggressor on this issue over the past several decades? Can you with a straight face say that there is nothing mean-spirited in the current homosexual insurgency? Please think carefully about it.

  15. To discriminate against a behavior is not the same as discriminating against a skin color.

    Of course, anti-miscegenation laws discriminated against a behavior.