Pride 2022: Celebrating our LGBTQ+ Pioneers

As a Master Systems Integrator working with technology in the built environment, we work within an industry which is innovative, fast moving, and reliant upon new thinking and ideas.

We are strong believers that innovation is key to redefining the best ways to work as a business and as an industry. To achieve this, the industry relies on diverse leadership to drive it forward.

As part of Pride Month, we wanted to pay tribute and celebrate the successes of a group of tech trailblazers who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Some of the most influential people within the tech industry identify as LGBTQ+ and have led businesses which have changed the way we live, have been appointed to some of the most important technological positions in the world and have conducted studies which have changed the course of the world as we know it.  

Megan Smith

After building a hugely successful career in the tech industry at blue-chip businesses such as Google, award-winning technology expert, entrepreneur, and activist Megan Smith became the first woman and the first lesbian to be named Chief Technology Officer of the United States and assistant to President Obama.

In that role, Megan recruited top tech talent to serve across government to work on important issues such as AI, data science and open-source technologies, to inclusive economic growth, entrepreneurship and STEM/STEAM engagement and support.

Megan now works for Shift7, a company she founded to aid collaboration and bring together the best companies across the world to help tackle societal challenges.

Lynn Conway

Lynn Conway’s work in the 1960s on dynamic instruction handling (DIS), a key advance used in out-of-order execution, is still used by most of the world today in smartphones and computers.

However, for years Lynn was never credited for being the brains behind such a pioneering invention and had to live a life of secrecy after undergoing a gender transition, something which the company she worked for, tech giant IBM, subsequently fired her for.

After coming out as transgender in 2000, Lynn’s extensive work as a transgender activist in the 21st century made the act of firing employees for being transgender illegal. IBM officially apologized for firing Conway – 52 years after it happened – and awarded her a lifetime achievement award to celebrate her work and career.

Alan Turing

Considered the father of computer science and AI, Alan Turing is one of the most influential gay figures in history. By cracking the Enigma Code, which enabled allied forces to interrupt and understand Nazi wartime communications, Turing’s work turned the tide of the Second World War.

His expertise in AI also enabled him to develop the Turing Test in 1950, which measures how natural the conversations are between a machine and humans. To date no AI has passed the Turing Test.

Tragically, Alan committed suicide at the age of 41, and in the years before his death he was convicted of ‘Gross Indecency’ as homosexual acts were illegal in the UK at that time. In December 2013, Alan Turing received a full pardon from Queen Elizabeth II. Since then the Alan Turing Law has been passed in the United Kingdom, an amnesty law to retroactively pardon men who were cautioned or convicted under historical legislation that outlawed homosexual acts.

Sophie Wilson

Sophie is best known for her development of the ARM processor, a huge advance in technology which still powers the mobile phones and powered portable devices we all use today.

She also helped develop the BBC Microcomputer, which was designed to aid in computer literacy and was a huge hit with schools in the UK in the 1980s.

In 2011, Sophie, a transgender woman, was named as one of the “15 Most Important Women in Tech History”.   

Audrey Tang

Audrey Tang became the youngest and first non-binary and transgender individual appointed as a minister in Taiwan at just 35 years old thanks to their expertise and contributions to free software and programming.

One of their most notable achievements was during the Covid-19 pandemic, where they implemented a mask tracking system which greatly helped Taiwan keep case numbers under control.

The system helped signal where citizens could purchase a mask during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic by utilising government stock tracking in pharmacies across Taiwan. This meant citizens were informed on where masks were always available. The solution was instrumental in helping Taiwan keep cases of COVID-19 from surging, helping to save countless lives.

Tim Cook

Finally, perhaps the most well-known figure on the list is Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, who in 2014 became the first Chief Executive of a Fortune 500 company to publicly come out as gay. Since coming out, Tim has described being gay as “God’s greatest gift to me”.

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