LGBT+ History Month: Leaders in Tech12/02/2020
February is LGBT+ History Month in the UK. This month, we want to focus on promoting knowledge and awareness of the achievements of the diverse LGBT+ community in the technology sector. This is why we have curated a list of the five most inspirational LGBT+ leaders in tech who continue to motivate and encourage equality in our industry.
- Angelica Ross, Founder and CEO of TransTech Social Enterprises
Angelica Ross is a businesswoman and entrepreneur, tech evangelist and transgender rights advocate. After becoming a self-taught coder, she founded TransTech Social Enterprises - an incubator that helps trans and gender-non-conforming people launch their careers in the digital industry.
As a trans woman, Ross is an LGBT+ rights activist, dedicating her life and career to advancing equality in the technology sector. Explaining her motives for founding TransTech, Ross says: "Most trans people are either violently removed or not welcome in many educational and workspaces. TransTech gives people a place where there’s no question that they belong and are valuable." She has been recognised for her influence, dedication, leadership and impact in industry.
Ross’s career achievements include speaking at the 2015 White House LGBTQ Tech and Innovation Summit, being an ambassador of the 50th Anniversary Stonewall celebration for Pride 2019, speaking at the 2019 National Trans Visibility March in Washington D.C. and hosting the 2020 Presidential Candidate Forum on LGBTQ Issues.
- Joel Simkhai, founder of Grindr
Joel Simkhai is the founder of Grindr, a networking and online dating application geared towards gay, bi and trans people. Joel Simkhai was born in Tel Aviv, Israel but immigrated to New York when he was three. After graduating in International Relations and Economics, he spent the beginning of his career working in finance and journalism before founding Grindr.
Grindr was one of the first gay geosocial apps to launch in the iTunes App Store and has since become one of the largest and most popular gay mobile app communities in the world with almost 4 million daily users.
A member of the Young Presidents' Organisation – a global leadership community of chief executives – Simkhai is also a prominent human rights activist. In 2011, he established Grindr4Equality, an awareness and outreach organisation dedicated to advancing LBGT equality worldwide. The platform allows members to share updates about gay rights legislation and local LBGT events, fostering communication in the community and facilitating gay rights demonstrations and political campaigns.
- Megan Smith, former Chief Technology Officer of the United States
Megan Smith is the former CTO of the United States as well as an award-winning tech entrepreneur, LGBT+ innovator and equality evangelist.
Smith served as CEO of Planet Out – a pioneering LGBTQ+ online media organisation and community forum – before becoming VP at Google, where she led the company’s Women Techmakers initiatives.
She was the third Chief Technology Officer of the United States and Assistant to the President, serving under President Barack Obama. As an openly gay woman, Smith used her CTO role to advocate equality in the digital ecosystem, project-managing and leading inclusive IT policies and initiatives across multiple sectors of the US economy.
Since leaving the White House in 2017, she has been an ambassador for the Tech Jobs Tour, an initiative dedicated to championing and nurturing diverse talent in the technology industry.
- Leanne Pittsford, founder and CEO of Lesbians Who Tech
Leanne Pittsford is the entrepreneur and founder of three tech diversity initiatives: Lesbians Who Tech, Tech Jobs Tour and include.io. She dedicates her professional life to increasing visibility, intersectionality and respect in all aspects of technology.
Lesbians Who Tech is currently the largest LGBT+ online tech community in the world with over 40,000 members and 40+ city chapters worldwide. Since 2012, Lesbians Who Tech has offered technical training opportunities, mentoring and support to increase visibility of LGBT+ women and non-binary individuals globally. The platform offers the Edie Windsor Coding Scholarship Fund — a coding scholarship for non-binary and LGBT+ women — as well as targeted leadership programmes to champion members as they progress into senior leadership roles.
In 2017, Pittsford launched include.io, a recruiting platform for underrepresented groups in tech. This pioneering initiative relies on an innovative algorithm that connects tech leaders to diverse talent by challenging and eliminating bias in the recruitment process. Similarly, Pittford’s Tech Jobs Tour is aimed at connecting the next generation of diverse technical talent with 150 companies. The tour has engaged over 50,000 people and has so far offered over 13,200 mentoring sessions for LGBT+ talent in partnership with high-profile employers.
- Tim Cook, CEO of Apple
As CEO of Apple, Tim Cook is one of the most high-profile, influential leaders in tech. He was named Apple’s CEO in 2011 and publicly identified as gay in 2014 in a personal essay for Bloomberg Businessweek.
A public supporter of LGBT+ rights, Cook is heavily invested in promoting diversity of thought in the digital industry and was recognised by the Alabama Academy of Honor for his work to advance LGBT+ equality in his home state. Speaking about his advocacy, Cook said that being a LGBT+ ambassador "has given him the confidence to be himself, to follow his own path and to rise above adversity and bigotry".
In addition to serving as CEO, Cook sits on Apple’s board of directors. He has overseen the development and release of some of the company’s most popular products, including the operating system OSX Yosemite for desktop and mobile and the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. In 2014, he also supported the corporation’s biggest acquisition to date. Previously, Cook was Apple’s Chief Operating Officer and was responsible for the company’s worldwide sales and strategic operations.
He was also named one of Forbes magazine's "World's Most Powerful People."