LGBTQIAS2+ tech pioneers who helped shape the industry

Pride month is celebrated throughout June, across many countries around the world. Andela is proud to be a global organization honoring the countless contributions to the tech industry by members of LGBTQIAS2+ communities through our #AndelaPride365 campaign.

An important part of celebrating Pride is paying tribute to LGBTQIAS2+ individuals who paved the way by shaping technological innovation, from the 20th century into the 21st century.

As many of the LGBTQIAS2+ pioneers in tech were helping the industry to evolve, they were also overcoming prejudice and striving for inclusion. We recognize them as powerful role models for all.

Meet some of these amazing individuals who changed the tech world as we know it!

Tim Cook

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

In 2014, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook published a personal essay for Bloomberg, announcing that he was gay – making him the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company!

Cook, who joined Apple in 1998, 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.

Cook wrote that being gay had “given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry. It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple.”

“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.”

Audrey Tang

Audrey Tang

Audrey Tang is a Taiwanese free software programmer and Digital Minister of Taiwan, who has been described as one of the “ten greatest Taiwanese computing personalities”. Thanks to Tang’s significant contributions to free software and programming, the Prime Minister of Taiwan invited them to build a literacy curriculum for the country’s schools.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Tang helped to implement a new mask tracking system, so Taiwanese citzens could track and purchase masks easily. Utilising government stock tracking in pharmacies across Taiwan, people could track mask availability 24/7. Tang’s solution was instrumental in helping Taiwan to reduce cases of COVID-19. Tang identifies as non-binary and was the first openly trans government minister in the world.

Ann Mei Chang

Ann Mei Chang

Named as 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. 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 helped launch the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), to expand internet access worldwide to developing countries. Chang was appointed CIO of Mercy Corps, which aims to create safe and successful communities around the world in regions that have been affected by natural disasters, economic crisis, or conflict. Chang continues to be a leading expert on social innovation, an advocate for global development, an author, and a speaker.

Peter Landin

Peter Landin

Peter Landin is recognized as the inventor of the Stack, Environment, Control, Dump (SECD) Machine, the first theoretical computer used for a functional programming language. He was a foundational figure in technology, and a pioneer of programming language design based on mathematical logic and the Lambda calculus. Many modern programming languages – such as JavaScript – make use of, or fully rely on, Landin’s work.

He was also known for his political activism, which included involvement in the Gay Liberation Front in the 1970s.

Edith Windsor

Edith Windsor

As a tech pioneer and equality advocate, American Edith Windsor was a computer programmer and an engineer, working with the UNIVAC at Combustion Engineering, Inc., and later at IBM in the 1950s and ’60s. Holding several roles in software engineering, including as a mainframe programmer and a senior systems programmer, she was not only one of the first prominent female technologists – she was also a courageous advocate for equality. She fought for the recognition of women in technology, revealing at the 2016 Lesbians Who Tech (LWT) Summit that one-third of her colleagues at IBM were female, despite only male colleagues in her team gaining recognition at the time.

Edith was a courageous LGBTQIA+ activist for the legalization of gay marriage. When her wife died in 2009, Windsor discovered that US law did not recognize same-sex couples as spouses and she would therefore have to pay taxes to inherit her late wife’s estate. A court case later ruled in Windsor’s favor and led the way for other court rulings granting more equality for same-sex couples.

Nergis Mavalvala

Nergis Mavalvala

Nergis Mavalvala, a world-famous quantum astrophysicist, has described herself as an “out, queer person of color.” Originally from Pakistan, Nergis moved to the U.S. to study at Wellesley College in Massachusetts before joining MIT to pursue her Ph.D. One of her first roles was a part of a research group focusing on the detection of gravitational waves, first proposed by Albert Einstein nearly 100 years earlier. Mavalvala developed a prototype laser interferometer that detected gravitational waves, later incorporated into the MIT-run Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, and the California Institute of Technology, where she joined as a staff scientist. In 2014, she won the LGBTQ Scientist of the Year Award from the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals.

Sally Ride

Sally Ride

Sally Ride joined NASA in 1978, becoming the first American woman in space and the youngest American astronaut to have traveled to space. During her first space shuttle mission, Ride was responsible for controlling a robotic arm and assisted in launching satellites into space. She embarked on a second space voyage in 1984. After leaving NASA in 1987, she became an advocate for encouraging girls into STEM by writing books for both students and teachers. Ride died of cancer in 2012 at the age of 61. In her obituary, Ride’s partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy, acknowledged her as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, recognizing Ride as the first LGBTQIA+ astronaut.

Happy Pride month!

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