The most influential LGBTQ+ people in tech
Diversity and inclusivity are getting more space on the corporate agenda and as part of this, LGBTQ+ issues and equality for all features heavily. There is still a considerable amount of work to do, but together, we’re taking steps in the right direction and helping shape the narrative for this community. Several diversity initiatives aimed at the LGBTQ+ community, specifically in the science, technology, engineering and maths/ medicine (STEM) sectors, have emerged in recent years.
That said, there is still a stigma around STEM careers in this male-dominated, heterosexual arena. A lack of role models or industry leaders that the LGBTQ+ community can identify with can dissuade them from pursuing a career in tech, or indeed science and engineering. Though scratch a little deeper than the surface, and we not only understand that the LGBTQ+ community is represented in the tech sector, but that some of the most influential people in recent times identify as part of this community.
Successful LGBTQ entrepreneurs in tech:
Technological advances rely on innovation, innovation that is found in creative ideas and diversity of thought. The evolution of the tech industry has been spurred on by a number of trailblazers and LGBTQ entrepreneurs, such as:
Tim Cook – CEO of Apple, Tim is often titled ‘the most powerful gay man in technology’. Surely, he is one of the most powerful men in tech, with no descriptive term necessary. However, Tim is indeed openly gay and advocates equal rights for gay and lesbian employees both in Apple and beyond.
Claudia Brind Woody – Claudia is theVice President & Managing Director for Global Intellectual Property Licensing at IBM. She’s worked at IBM since the 90s and places a strong emphasis on creating an inclusive working environment. As such, Claudia has earned a variety of plaudits in the LGBTQ+ space, including being named in the Guardian’s 100 most influential LGBT people of the year and the Financial Times’s Top 50 OUTstanding list.
Ana Arriola – a partner and product designer at Microsoft, Ana has undergone a complete transition and now works on human-centric and ethical design of products at Microsoft. Her CV includes some of the most recognised names in tech like Facebook, Adobe and Playstation. Her guiding belief is to craft tech experiences that are ‘Human. Simple. Authentic’.
Lisa Brummel – Lisa worked at Microsoft for more than 25 years, with almost 10 of these in post as Chief People Officer. Now retired, Lisa sits on the board of various tech companies as well as co-owning Seattle Storm, a professional women’s basketball team.
Christy Gaughan – Christy spent nearly 10 years at Genetech as their Director of Marketing Science. This innovative biotech company had an LGBT employee group, of which Christy was co-chair. She regularly speaks at LGBTQ+ events, particularly in the data and tech space, including with ‘Lesbians who Tech’. She is now Vice President, Head of Global Insights and Digital Engagements at Roche in Switzerland.
Jon Hall – Nicknamed Maddog (yes, it’s even in his LinkedIn personalised URL) Jon has been in the computing industry since 1969, covering roles from programmer to technical marketing manager. He came out in 2012 to publicly honour the 100th anniversary of Alan Turing. Career-wise, Jon is something of a legend in the Linux space, being dubbed the ‘godfather of Linux’ and serving as the Executive Director and Board Chair of Linux International.
Megan Smith – Megan truly came into the public eye when she was appointed as Chief Technology Officer of the USA, serving under President Obama. As if this wasn’t enough, Megan was also one of the individuals behind Google’s moonshot ideas and projects, i.e. projects that required a considerable leap or breakthrough in technology to solve them.
Juergen Maier – Former CEO of Siemens UK, Jurgen is a British-Austrian national who is now chair of Digital Catapult, vice-chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, and co-chair of the national Made Smarter manufacturing programme. Juergen was not openly gay for many years, fearing his orientation would cause him problems in his career. More recently, he publicly speaks about his struggles as a gay man and how to deal with homophobia in the workplace.
How are initiatives like “Out In Tech” helping?
Initiatives and organisations that are helping push the LGBTQ+ agenda forward, and make organisations realise that there is more to equality than a rainbow flag on their social media avatar, are becoming more recognised. Pride in Stem is a charitable trust whose aim is to ‘queer up science spaces’ and ‘science up queer spaces’. Out in Tech have been inspiring college-age LGBTQ+ individuals to pursue tech careers since 2015.
Both of these organisations run regular events, both in-person and virtually, to connect and inspire LGBTQ+ people in the STEM sector. They collaborate with charities like Stonewall and attend UK-wide science festivals to bang the drum, loudly and very proudly, of our industry. Do check them out!