LGBTQ+ leaders in tech

5 LGBTQ+ leaders in tech

Recognise a few?

1 August 2022

Rainbow flags at the ready, Amsterdam Pride is one of the most anticipated (and one of our favourite) events of the year.

Not one to miss out on the celebrations, in honour of the occasion we’re shining a light on tech’s prominent queer history. Most of you will have heard the struggle of Alan Turing, the father of computer science and a gay man before his time. However, there are plenty of LGBTQ+ pioneers, whose technology we rely on today, whose names are not as well known. 

Tech has not always been a welcoming place to those in the LGBTQ+ community. Working to change that, a number of diversity initiatives aimed at LGBTQ+ people in tech, including Lesbians Who Tech, StartOut, and TransTech Social Enterprises, to name a few, are focusing on improving office culture and opportunities for the queer tech community. 

From the household names to the lesser-known, here is our round of inspirational LGBTQ+ trailblazers whose stories and struggles shape tech’s history and future.  

 

1. Edith Windsor

Most people will recognise Edith Windsor as the plaintiff in the landmark 2013 U.S Supreme Court case and prominent gay rights icon. Windsor sued the federal goverment to recognise her same-sex marriage, opening the door for nationwide marriage equality. The case was a watershed moment in the history of LGBTQ+ rights. 

But what many don’t know is that Windsor was also a pioneering technologist. She rose to the top ranks at IBM in 1968 at a time when women in tech were few and far between. Continuing her legacy, Lesbians Who Tech launched the Edie Windsor Coding Scholarship Fund, which funds coding-school tuition for queer and gender-nonconforming women, providing them with mentorship and other support systems. 

 

2. Peter Landin 

Peter Landin was a British computer scientist whose ideas make up the foundation for the software that runs laptops, desktop PCs and the internet today. He was the first to recognise that people might use the lambda calculus to describe a programming language, which is crucial for developing functional and denotational semantics.

However, computing wasn’t all he did. Landin was also radical in politics, a regular protestor and, as a bisexual man, threw himself into supporting the Gay Liberation Front in the early 1970s, going as far to turn his Camden home into a gay commune.

 

3. Megan Smith 

As the first ever female US CTO appointed by President Obama back in 2014, Megan Smith has broken through a lot of glass ceilings in her career. She is also one of the highest-ranking openly gay officials in the White House. 

Prior to this, Smith was instrumental in the launch of initiatives such as Women Techmakers and SolveForX during her time as VP at Google. She also previously served as CEO of PlanetOut, a leading LGBTQ+ online community in the early days of the internet. 

 

4. Arlan Hamilton

With her venture firm, Backstage Capital, and leading a new $36 million fund for black female founders, Arlan Hamilton is changing the tech entrepreneurship game. She is the only black, queer woman to have built a venture capital firm from scratch, a firm she started in 2015 while homeless. 

Backstage invests in companies led by underrepresented founders, including women, people of colour, and LGBTQ+ individuals. In a mere five years, Backstage has raised more than $7 million and invested in more than 130 startups.

 

5. Tim Cook

This name should be familiar to most. Not only one of the most influential LGBTQ+ people in tech, Tim Cook is one of the most influential people in tech, period. Cook was announced as Apple’s CEO in 2011, after previously serving as the company’s chief operating officer. He publicly came out in 2014 in an essay published in Bloomberg Businessweek after feeling an “increasing sense of duty” to help the gay community. Cook has since donated millions to supporting a variety of different human rights issues as well as the LGBTQ+ community. 

 

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