• Silicon Valley employees at companies like Google and Amazon have organized walkouts or quit in protest of military contracts or handling of sexual misconduct.
  • Google responded to increased employee activism by shutting down some avenues for dissent entirely, but Smith said Microsoft has continued to encourage open dialogue.
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DAVOS, Switzerland As more tech companies like Google attempt to silence employees who don't agree with company practices , Microsoft says it has made more room for dissent.

Microsoft president Brad Smith told Business Insider that his company welcomes employee dissent on the company's projects. Microsoft commitment extends beyond shareholders, Smith said if Microsoft builds a tool that will impact employees and society at large, the company wants to hear from them.

" I don't think our employees are naive," Smith said in an interview with Business Insider at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "I think sometimes they are idealistic. I think the world needs a combination of idealism and pragmatism."

As Silicon Valley companies face public scrutiny for company ethics and sexual harassment , employee activism within tech has skyrocketed. Google employees staged numerous walkouts in the last few years, and fired some dissenting workers for violating company policies . Some Facebook engineers quit the firm altogether in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal in 2018.

In Google's case, the company responded to increased employee frustration by shutting down its weekly meeting for employees to share their views . Microsoft, on the other hand, increased employee visibility and dissent on company practices, Smith told Business Insider.

"Every time we hear from our employees, we have the opportunity to learn," Smith said. "It doesn't mean that we'll necessarily reach the same conclusion, but we do get smarter."

Similar to employees at Google and other tech giants, Microsoft's female and minority engineers expressed feeling marginalized at work. In 2019, an internal email obtained by Quartz detailed dozens of women sharing their experiences with sexism at Microsoft. Other employees argued against the importance of diversity and claimed "outright discrimination" against white male workers, Quartz reported . Microsoft employees have also protested the company's contracts with military.

While other tech companies fold too quickly to employee outcry or shut down dissent altogether, Smith said Microsoft balances encouraging open discussion with careful decision making.

"In some cases, some companies may be too quick to say yes to what people were urging them to do; in other cases, maybe companies are not listening to employees enough," Smith said. "We don't have all the answers, but you don't tend to see Microsoft at one of these extremes or the other."

This interview is part of a partnership between Business Insider and Microsoft at the 2020 World Economic Forum. Business Insider editors independently decided on the topics broached and questions asked. See Also: The ultimate guide to breaking into marketing consulting and making 6 figures, from people who did it Straight couples are more likely to divorce after a wife's promotion but there are simple steps you can take to avoid that fate Here's exactly how to make yourself 'poachable' and land on a recruiter's radar for your dream job SEE ALSO: After a year of unrest at Google, insiders are reacting with a weird lack of emotion to the leadership change