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LGBTQIA+ Icons in Tech and IT

28
Jun
2023
LGBTQIA+ Icons in Tech and IT

At Capicua, we believe that all processes, projects, and products can only be as successful as our team members' growth opportunities, both individually and as a whole. No, we're not discussing professional thrive but focusing on personal well-being. We are well aware that self-expression is a vital part of emotional comfort, and in these rowdy waters, we stand with the human right to express, explore, and, foremost, exist. 

That's why we, as a company, choose to leave common places, like a rainbowed version of our logo on Pride Month. We believe in diving deeper to analyze and understand all edges of a given reality to create outcomes that show our values while people can feel represented. While this approach is often noticeable in our content, projects, and partnerships, on such a special day as today, we reaffirm our year-round stand alongside the LGBTQ+ community. 

Last year, in 2022, we offered a safe space for our teammates to express their thoughts about the blend of their experiences and the IT and Software Development field as a career path. But we know that there are LGBTQ+ folks thriving in this profession all around the world! So, with no further ado, here is our list of IT-related LGBTQ+ Tech Icons.

Alan Turing

Born in 1912, this English mathematician and computer scientist is often called the father of Artificial Intelligence. After graduating from Cambridge and Princeton, Turing played a key role as a cryptanalyst in deciphering encrypted German communications, which was fundamental for the Allies' forces to win World War II.  After the conflict, he worked at the Londons National Physical Library, developing the foundations of stored-program computing. 

Turing gained further relevance with his paper "(...)Application to the Entscheidungsproblem" in 1936. Meaning "Decision Problem," it aimed to solve which systems solve which statements within mathematics. During this time, he invented his well-known Turing Machine, settling the principles of digital computers, and performed his still-referred-to Turing Test, in which he experimented with the idea of Artificial Computer Intelligence. 

While all this sounds amazing, his life came to a tragic end after being prosecuted. Once authorities discovered he was gay, he was arrested under gross indecency charges. Later, at only 41 years old, he committed suicide with cyanide in 1954. Today, history has a special seat for Alan, named one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century by Time Magazine and whose life was portrayed in the 2014 film, The Imitation Game. 

Danielle Bunten Berry

Did you know that the first successful Atari multiplayer game was created by a trans woman? Starting her career with mathematical modeling, Danielle Bunten Berry (1949-1998)  founded Ozark Softscape and was later part of the OG team of the unknown-at-the-time EA (Electronic Arts). Games with her name involved Apple II Wheeler Dealers (1978), Computer Quarterback (1978), and Cytron Masters (1982). Her most-known work was designing M.U.L.E, which launched in 1983 and sold over 300,000 copies, a groundbreaking number at the time. 

In 1992, she started her gender transition process. While she retired from the game industry to focus on her transition, she kept working in consulting roles. The Computer Game Developers Association awarded her the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998. Sadly, that same year Danielle died after battling with lung cancer. Almost ten years later, in 2007, the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences added Berry to its Hall of Fame.

LGBTQIA Icons in Tech and IT

Lynn Conway

An American computer scientist and electrical engineer, Lynn Conway's (b. 1938) ideas led to disruptive changes for the entire tech industry. After earning both Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Electrical Engineering, she worked as a university professor and a published author of engineering books. For example, her "Introduction to VLSI Systems" became the handbook for microchip design. That's because she is most known for inventing a simplified way to design and manufacture complex microchips. Her work shaped modern microchips in almost all high-technology systems, like computers, smartphones, and the Internet! 

The twist here is that all that work was made, in her works, in "stealth-mode" while she completed her transition in 1968. But the sad part is that IBM’s medical director outed her, which led to the CEO firing her on the spot. It wasn't until 2020 (fifty-two years later!) that IBM issued an apology to Lynn in an event called "Tech Trailblazer and Transgender Pioneer Lynn Conway in conversation with Diane Gherson." Gherson, IBM’s Senior VP of Human Resources, stated a heartfelt apology in front of over 1,000 people while also awarding her the rare IBM Lifetime Achievement Award

While she well deserves the recognition due to her lifelong, devoted work, we're warmed to see that, in the end, Lynn got closure for a series of events that only occurred because she wanted to be her true self.

Lou Downe

Founder of Good Services, Lou has an amazing personal and professional legacy behind them. While working at the UK Government as its Design Director, they were voted one of the United Kingdom's top 50 Creative Leaders in 2016 and one of the world's 100 most influential people in Digital Government in 2018. 

Nonetheless, they have been a wonderful source of inspiration for non-binary people worldwide. Not only does their company declares in its mission statement that they aim to create Good Services for everybody, but they have also been quite outspoken about the role of gender in the services industry, with pieces like "How to talk about gender at events" and "We don’t need another shero." We highly recommend their interview with Create/Change's Primer!

Conclusion

Rather than a summarized conclusion, we'd like to wrap this praise with a quote from another LGBTQ+ leader. Web developer and actress Angelica Ross (b. 1980) has just the right words: "So many times, LGBTQ+ and marginalized people are not afforded the opportunities to be creative because life is always at our heels… but technology is that one thing that can give you your creativity back."