Pride month has long been a celebration of the LGBTIAQ+ community in tech and at SparkPost – and this year is no different.
In celebration of Pride month this year, the MessageBird employee resource group, known internally as our #birdiversity group, has been posting a daily shout-out of a well-known person that identifies (or is now generally considered) as being part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Taking a cue from this celebration and lifting of LGBTQIA+ voices, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most influential members of the LGBTIAQ+ community in tech, as well as some groups to support and join.
LGBTQIA+ Voices in Tech
Lynn Conway, pioneering chip designer at IBM
Conway worked at IBM in the 1960s and invented generalized dynamic instruction handling, a key advance used in out-of-order execution. It’s used by most modern computer processors to improve performance.
As one of the very early transsexual women to undergo hormonal and surgical sex reassignment, Conway faced adversity in the workplace. Fearing disruption, IBM corporate management fired her in 1968, finally apologizing for the move in 2020.
Conway became a mentor and model for generations following her path to gender transition.
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple
In 2014, Cook became the first chief executive of a Fortune 500 company to publicly come out as gay.
Cook famously came out in an article in Bloomberg Business where he said, “I’m proud to be gay and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”
Cook has been the chief executive officer of Apple Inc. since 2011. He previously served as the company’s chief operating officer under its co-founder Steve Jobs.
Alan Turing, computing and AI pioneer
Turing is generally regarded as the “father” of theoretical computing science and artificial intelligence. In 1936, he developed the idea for the Universal Turing Machine, the basis for the first computer. Later, in 1950, he developed a test for artificial intelligence that is still used today.
In 1952, Turing was arrested and charged with “indecency” after a brief relationship with another man. The punishment for homosexuality was chemical castration, and Turing was forced to undergo a series of hormone injections.
He died in 1954 from what is believed to have been a suicide. Turing’s life story has become even more well-known after the release of the acclaimed 2014 film “The Imitation Game.”
David Bohnett, founder of GeoCities
In 1994, Bohnett founded GeoCities.com, a media and e-commerce company that once ranked among the top four most trafficked sites on the web.
After selling GeoCities to Yahoo!, Bohnett went on to a life in philanthropy, committed to effecting positive change through community building and social activism.
Current primary funding areas of the David Bohnett Foundation include LGBT-related causes and AIDS services and research.
Peter Arvai, co-founder and CEO of Prezi
A Hungarian/Swedish entrepreneur and activist, Arvai is the Executive Chairman, co-founder and former CEO of Prezi, a cloud-based presentation software company.
Arvia has been an active member of the LGBTQIA+ community in tech. In 2010, Prezi became the first-ever company to march in the Budapest Pride Parade. Then in 2013, Arvia and the team at Prezi co-founded the NGO ‘WeAreOpen’ with espell and Google, focused on “promoting and helping organizations understand and experience the benefits of openness at the workplace.”
LGBTIAQ+ Groups in Tech
Whether you are part of the LGBTQAI+ community and you’re looking for more connection, or you’re an ally looking for a group to support, these organizations were formed with the goal of supporting LGBTQIA+ folks in tech.
This non-profit aims to connect LGBT youth to tech internships and encourages them to pursue college-level training.
This group provides training and employment opportunities, and it aims to reduce discrimination experienced by transgender employees.
Consisting of a global network of over 15,000 queer women, Lesbians Who Tech is an organization working to promote visibility and professional connections in tech-related fields.
Powered by the workplace collaboration tool Slack, the LGBTQ in Technology Slack group is a safe online space for LGBT techies to chat and support each other.
Uplift, celebrate, and support the LGBTIAQ+ community in tech
Just looking back at the many pioneers in the technology community who identify, or identified, as LGBTIAQ+, it’s clear that we’ve come a long way. It’s also clear that we’ve got a long way to go until we’ve reached equity for everyone in the industry.
At SparkPost, a MessageBird company, we’ve been honored to uplift LGBTQIA+ voices and celebrate LGBTQIA+ culture and support LGBTQIA+ rights – both this month and always.