Celebrating Pride Month in Tech: Innovators Who Empower LGBTQ

pride month

In honor of Pride Month, we’re celebrating pride month in tech and paying tribute to individuals who have helped shape technological innovations while working to overcome prejudice, fighting for acceptance, and empowering others in the LGBTQ community to live their truths and dreams.

In 2014, Apple’s Tim Cook became the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company through his personal essay published in Bloomberg.

For Cook, surrendering his privacy has been worth it, since it meant helping others who are struggling to come to terms with who they are. He acknowledges how much he has “benefited from the sacrifice of others,” and now, others will benefit from his.

Cook has been with Apple since 1998, previously responsible for the company’s global sales and operations. In his time as CEO, Cook has led the company through the most successful years in its history — including making it the first US company to reach $2 trillion market cap just last year.

“I’ve had the good fortune to work at a company that loves creativity and innovation and knows it can only flourish when you embrace people’s differences.”

Named one of the “most powerful LGBTQ+ people in tech” by Business Insider in 2019, Ann Mei Chang began her career in Silicon Valley with companies including Apple and Google — the latter where she led the team as Senior Engineering Director for Emerging Markets — delivering 20x growth in just 3 years.

Chang has served as the Senior Advisor for the US Department of State’s Women and Technology in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues where she had a hand in launching the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) which helped expanded internet access worldwide to developing countries.

Chang was appointed CIO of Mercy Corps, working to create safe and successful communities around the world in  areas that have experienced natural disaster, economic crisis, or conflict. Most recently, she’s held the positions of CIO and Executive Director of the US Global Development Lab at USAID, leveraging science and technology to accelerate the impact and scale of global development.

Chang continues to be a leading expert on social innovation, an advocate for global development, an author, speaker, and inspiration to all.

Computer scientist Lynn Conway revolutionized IT by inventing new methods to simplify the design of complex microchips – paving the way for modern chips in almost all high-tech systems including computers, mobile devices, and the internet. 

Facing incredible adversity alongside her groundbreaking innovations, IBM fired her upon learning of her gender transition. (In late 2020, IBM released an apology for doing so). Upon the transition’s completion in 1968, she went on in “stealth-mode” to Xerox PARC, DARPA, and is now a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan.

Conway’s achievements and extraordinary work as a computer scientist demonstrate her exceptional talent and work ethic. She’s gone on to win many awards including the highest professional recognition an engineer can achieve — being elected as a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Quietly coming out in 1999, she is a leading activist for the transgender community, campaigning for equal opportunities and employment protections for transgenders in the tech industry. In 2014, the code of ethics became fully LGBTQ inclusive thanks to Conway. That same year, Time Magazine named her as one of the ’21 Transgender People Who Influenced American Culture.”