Pride, not Prejudice: LGBTQ pioneers in the world of sci-tech

23 Jun 2017

A rainbow flag flies high at London’s Gay Pride parade on 29 June, 2013. Image: Bikeworldtravel/Shutterstock

Pride Month is here, but who are the people flying the rainbow flag in the fields of science and technology?

June marks the month of Pride for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals (LGBTQ).

Rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the Stonewall riots in 1969, Pride has become a calendar staple for members of the LGBTQ community, honouring their equality and celebrating their culture.

Last week, a Google Chrome extension called #LoveWins was launched by Connector to coincide with Pride Month, turning online homophobic slurs into delightfully positive adjectives. To show support for this period, Google has also adorned all LGBTQ-related searches with a rainbow banner.

As many prepare to march in Pride parades across the globe this month (and this weekend in Dublin), we take a look at the people who brought diversity into the world of white coats and computer chips.

Tearing down tech barriers

As technology continues to break new ground, so too does the inspiring coterie of LGBTQ individuals in its ranks.

A notable inclusion is Apple CEO Tim Cook, one of the most influential men in tech. He came out publicly as gay in 2015, noting the “tremendous responsibility” he felt to forgo his privacy for the chance to help normalise conversations around sexual orientation.

“It became so clear to me that kids were getting bullied in school, kids were getting basically discriminated against, kids were even being disclaimed by their own parents, and that I needed to do something,” he said.

In doing so, Cook became the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

Another prominent figure is Kara Swisher, executive editor of Recode, lesbian and self-proclaimed “grumpy lady of tech”.

She has been vocal about her disdain for the anti-gay policies of US president Donald Trump, and previously spoke at Inspirefest 2015 about sexism in Silicon Valley and diversity in the tech industry.

Many will know of Edith ‘Edie’ Windsor, a former IBM manager and a veteran LGBTQ rights activist. She is famous for the landmark civil rights case United States v Windsor, in which she won the right to have her same-sex marriage to Thea Clara Spyer recognised, and be treated as a surviving spouse in the eyes of the law.

Last year, the Edie Windsor Coding Scholarship was established in her name by Lesbians Who Tech, in a bid to advance the education of LGBTQ women in the industry.

LGBTQ in the lab

As outlined in the infographic below by Joby Razzell Hollis, the world of science has also boasted an impressive cohort of inspiring LGBTQ individuals.

Alan Turing, for example, was an English computer scientist and mathematician known for his work on cracking the Enigma code in World War 2, an achievement made famous by the 2014 film The Imitation Game.

Last year, he was given a posthumous pardon for his 1952 homosexuality conviction, under a new amendment dubbed the ‘Alan Turing law’.

Also included is Lynn Conway, electrical engineer and transgender activist; Nergis Mavalvala, professor of astrophysics at MIT; Sally Ride, the first American woman in space; and David Smith, professor of chemistry at York University.

More details on this infographic, and guidance on printing for proud display in your lab or workplace, can be found here.


LGBTQ role models in science. Infographic: Joby Razzell Hollis/@LGBT_Physics. Click to enlarge.

A rainbow flag flies high at London’s Gay Pride parade on 29 June, 2013. Image: Bikeworldtravel/Shutterstock

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Shelly Madden was sub-editor of Silicon Republic