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As we celebrate Pride month, we want to feature some notable LGBTQ+ members of the tech community that have contributed and revolutionized the industry. These trailblazers, whether founders or employees of the biggest names in tech, have continued to fight for more inclusive practices in the workforce and make sure that all voices are brought to the table. Diversity only makes us stronger and we are here to celebrate that! Continue reading to view their stories.
Chris Hughes, cofounder of Facebook
You probably know his name in association with one of the cofounders of Facebook. Additionally, he is also the editor in chief of The New Republic, a leading public policy magazine. He has also worked on Obama’s presidential campaign where he developed their online organizing strategy which contributed to his election as the first black president of the United States, in addition to revolutionizing modern day politics as we know it! The list continues – Chris also founded Jumo, a platform that connects activists to organizations to better our world and has also served on the United Nations AIDS High Level Commission on HIV prevention! Fun fact: Did you know that Hughes along with his partner and political activist, Sean Eldridge have also founded Stand Up America, a grassroots resistance campaign?
Arlan Hamilton, cofounder and CEO of Backstage Capital
This amazing black, queer woman started Backstage Capital, a venture capital firm that came to life during her struggle with homelessness. What exactly does the company back? Underrepresented founders be it women, people of color or those that identify as LGBTQ+. In a mere 5 years, Backstage Capital has raised more than $7 million and invested in more than 130 startup companies! “I was going toe-to-toe with people who had an unlimited amount of money, who could wine and dine their limited partners with lavish events and big productions,” Hamilton said. “It was me and my backpack, going to conferences and meeting people, sleeping in cars — doing whatever I could to meet with them face to face because I had to play ball.” Arlan’s grit and focus to invest in females, minorities and those that identify as LGBTQ+ has certainly made her a force to be reckoned with!
Ana Arriola, partner and product designer at Microsoft
“Don’t be told how or what you should be doing in your life. You define it yourself.” Ana has gone through her full biological transition over the past few years and is now working on human-centric and ethical design of products at Microsoft. She has worked for companies that one can only dream of – Apple, PlayStation, Sony, Theranos, Adobe, and the list goes on! In addition, Ana is a transgender advocate, an award-winning leader in her field and the founder of Minimalisms Inc. Her belief is simple – that we need to be crafting experiences that are “Human. Simple. Authentic.” She’s truly a superstar in every regard.
Megan Smith, former chief technology officer of the United States
Megan is an award-winning entrepreneur, engineer and tech evangelist. She is also the first ever female US CTO as appointed by President Obama back in 2014. What exactly does a U.S. CTO do? They focus on how technology, policy, data and innovation can advance the future of the nation. Prior to this, she aided with the launch of some fantastic initiatives such as Women Tech-makers and SolveForX during her time as VP at Google. To add, she was also the former CEO of PlanetOut – a leader of the online LGBT community back in the very first few years of the Internet. What is Megan up to today? Serving on the boards of MIT (where she graduated from), MIT Media Lab and Vital Voices.
Leanne Pittsford, founder and CEO of Lesbians Who Tech
Leanne is a go-getter which you can tell by her three diversity initiatives that focus on tech – Lesbians Who Tech, include.io and Tech Jobs Tour! She defines herself as “an entrepreneur, investor and thought leader at the intersection of technology and economic opportunity for All Americans and believes that economic power is a driving force for cultural and societal change! Lesbians Who Tech is the largest LGBTQ community of technologists in the world – with over 40,000 members to boast and more than 5,000 attending the annual summit every year! Fun fact: She got married to political consultant Pia Carusone back in 2017 – congratulations Leanne!
Martine Rothblatt, founder of Sirius XM and United Therapeutics
Back in 1990, Martine cofounded Sirius XM Satellite Radio before founding United Therapeutics in 1996. Her move from Sirius XM to biotech came about after her daughter was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension. Through United Therapeutics, they know sell five FDA-approved drugs to help people with the disease! She also came out as transgender in the 1990’s and has been a vocal activist in support of the trans community. Together with her wife of (almost) 40 years prior to the transition, they have four children together.
Ann Mei Chang, former chief innovation officer at USAID
Not only is she a leading advocate for social innovation, Ann Mei was also the former Chief Innovation Officer at USAID, an independent federal agency for providing foreign aid. Ann Mei boasts a resume that involves serving as the first executive director of the US Global Development Lab, a published author, executive positions at Mercy Corps and the State Department, and a product development engineer at Apple, Intuit and Google! Additionally, she has been recognized for her many contributions: “Women In the World: 125 Women of Impact” by Newsweek/The Daily Beast in 2013, “23 most powerful LGBTQ+ people in tech” by Business Insider in 2019, and “20 Top LGBTQ+ Entrepreneurs, Executives and Thought Leaders” by Global Shakers in 2019. Talk about impressive!
Claudia Brind-Woody, VP at IBM
Claudia is the VP and managing director of intellectual property licensing at IBM and serves as the co-chair of their LGBT executive task force to further champion LGBTQ+ diversity in the workplace. “When our employees don’t have to think twice about struggling for the same benefits, recognition, or are afraid of being safe, then productivity goes up,” Brind-Woody told Business Insider in 2016. And we couldn’t agree more! To add to this, Claudia has been on the receiving end of numerous awards and nominations including the Out & Equal Trailblazer award (2011), The Guardian’s 100 most influential LGBT people of the year (2012), Financial Times Top 50 OUTstanding list (2013-2015) and their hall of fame in 2016. she has spent her tenure there emphasizing how fostering an inclusive corporate work environment is good for business – and spurs positive societal change.
Lynn Conway, pioneering chip designer at IBM
Lynn is the famed pioneer of microelectronics chip design but did you know that IBM fired her back when she was undergoing her transition while still employed? She has since used her position and influence to become an advocate for the trans community. “When I made the decision to have a gender correction, everybody told me I was terrible, I was going to end up dead or in an asylum someplace,” she told ABC News in an interview. “But they were wrong. I’ve had a great life, I’m very happy, and I’ve managed to do some productive, important work.” – we love to see her fearlessness! Lynn has contributed immensely to the tech industry as they have used her computing methods as the basis of their work. She has also been honored with membership to the National Academy of Engineering, the highest professional recognition an engineer can receive.
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple
There is no way you haven’t heard of his name – but did you know that Apple’s CEO was also part of the LGBTQ+ community? He publicly came out in 2014 (and was the first on the Fortune 500 list that publicly announced this) and decided to do so in order to find ways to help the gay community. With great power comes great responsibility, and Tim has since donated millions to support a variety of different human rights issues and continued to use his platform and status to help inspire those in the same community. He wrote: “If hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.”
There’s a long road ahead of us before we can bridge this gap but here at Adstream, we celebrate our differences and acknowledge that it is this that makes us unique and stronger! This month, and every month, we celebrate Pride and fully support the movement. However you identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum:
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