When Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill earlier this year to discuss a bill to increase semiconductor production, he would end the meetings by asking, “Can I pray for you?
For Gelsinger, it was not a trivial expression. He meant it. Prayer is something he has done with many people – over 10,000 during his long career in Silicon Valley.
It’s his way of asking, “May I join you in your greatest concerns,” he explained at an event at Stanford University on Thursday, where academics and business leaders talked about the intersection of faith and work, as well as the sensitivities and opportunities that exist there. .
Sometimes, Gelsinger said, people would say no to his prayer offer, and other times they would ask if he would pray for them right away. The question often came up after co-workers shared challenges they were facing or something that was going on with their family.
In Silicon Valley, employees are told to bring their “whole” to work, Gelsinger and other panelists said. But what does this mean for people for whom their faith is an integral part of their lives, both on and off the job? A recent poll by HarrisX for the Deseret News showed that people think it’s important for people to be able to share their faith at work, but a majority of religious people said they were afraid to do so.
This is even more true in California, pointed out Stanford law professor Robert Daines. He asked the panelists why they thought that was the case.
Steve Younga former Brigham Young University and NFL quarterback who now runs a private equity firm, said he recognizes that some people see religion as divisive and religious people need to do their best to make their faith work in a “healthy” way. and healing” to others.
She was taught by her NFL football coach, Bill Walsh, that building a team requires breaking down the barriers that separate us and learning to love each other, including having “tender conversations” involving faith.
Paul Khavari, a professor at the Stanford School of Medicine who is a member of the Baha’i Faith, agreed with Young that some people see religion as divisive, which is why he said he felt more at home. comfortable talking about his faith when talking to people. -on-one, rather than making “big claims”.
The tension around faith at work is particularly tense in Silicon Valley, where work often brings meaning and purpose to people’s lives, rather than religious faith, according to Carolyn Chen, professor of ethnic studies at the University of California at Berkeley, and co-director of the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion. Chen is also the author of “Work Pray Code: When Work Becomes Religion in Silicon Valley”, and is a Christian.
“Workplaces are the new religious communities…in places like Silicon Valley,” Chen said. But “we need a diversity of institutions to thrive outside of work.”
She added that she fears corporations are supplanting the need for “vibrant religious communities”.
By design, companies want their employees to feel spiritually and socially nurtured at work, but the religious workers she interviewed for her book were less likely to want to spend long days at the office because they wanted to spend time to their religious communities. They found identity and meaning outside of work, Chen said.
Garrett Johnson, co-founder and president of the Lincoln Network, a market-focused think tank, expressed concern that tech companies often miss the “I” in diversity, equity and diversity training. inclusion. Silicon Valley can be “stuffy and difficult” for people with heterodox views on faith and politics, he said.
When he spoke with DCI professionals about how to incorporate faith into the training they provide, he said he realized that “they don’t know what they’re doing. they do not know”. But, he said, there was an openness to bringing diversity of faith and perspective into the conversation about workplace inclusion.
David Miller, a professor at Princeton University and director of the Faith & Work Initiative, said it was important for big business to be faith-friendly, but not faith-based. They should find ways to include employees of all faiths — from “atheism to Zoroastrianism,” he said.
In his work with companies around the world, many leaders want to understand how to help embed faith and values in a workplace, Miller said, including talking about ethics and purpose.
“For some it’s healing – balm in Gilead,” he said. The central question for many religious workers is “How do we worship God and serve our neighbor through our work?” »