June is LGBT Pride Month! There are (and historically have been) LGBT folks in virtually every career field, but some are more well-known than others. Beyond the activists, artists, and politicians, there are also LGBTQ+ folks involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields! Here are ten who I think are really interesting, but there are many more out there waiting for you to learn more about them!
- Alan Turing: If you (like me) are a Benedict Cumberbatch fan, you probably already know about Alan Turing from 2014’s The Imitation Game. Turing was best known for cracking the Nazi’s Enigma Code during World War II, but he was also the inventor of the Turing Machine, the basis for all computers. Unfortunately, Turing lived in England, a place where homosexuality was considered a crime in the 1950s, so he was arrested for “indecency” in 1952 and forced to take hormone treatments. He was granted a posthumous pardon in 2013 by the British government.
- Sally Ride: In 1983, at age 32, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. After her own career in space, she began Sally Ride Science, a nonprofit designed to inspire children’s interests in science and math, and she served as director of the California Space Institute at the University of California. After Ride’s death in 2012, her sister revealed that Ride had been in a relationship with a woman, Tam O’Shaughnessy, for 27 years. O’Shaughnessy now serves as executive director of Sally Ride Science.
- Peter Arvai: If you’ve ever used Prezi to present for your classes or at work, you have Peter Arvai to thank for that, at least in part. He helped found Prezi in 2009, and he’s considered the first openly gay Hungarian CEO.
- Arlan Hamilton: Backstage Capital, a venture capital firm that invests in companies led by women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals, is run by Arlan Hamilton. In addition to being its CEO, Hamilton is the organization’s co-founder, and she started the firm in 2015 while she was homeless. According to Fast Company, she is “the only black, queer woman to have ever built a venture capital firm from scratch.”
- Tim Cook: Apple CEO Tim Cook came out as gay in 2014 in an open letter published in Bloomberg Businessweek, becoming the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company. He said he came out after reading letters from children struggling with their own sexual orientations and facing conflicts with their families or struggles with their mental health as a result.
- Lynn Conway: One of Time Magazine’s “21 Transgender People Who Influenced American Culture,” Lynn Conway did pioneering work on microelectronics chip design. She was recruited by IBM to work on a team building an advanced supercomputer in 1964, but she was fired in 1968 after transitioning from male to female. This didn’t stop her from going on to do important work at Memorex, Xerox PARC, and DARPA.
- Alan Hart: During Alan Hart’s lifetime (1890-1962), tuberculosis was a major cause of death in the United States, and Hart was a public health expert and researcher who led the fight against it. He was also one of the first female-to-male transgender people in the United States to have a hysterectomy as part of their transition. Post-coming out as transgender, Hart continued to write and served as the director of hospitalization and rehabilitation at the Connecticut State Tuberculosis Commission.
- Leanne Pittsford: In addition to her other initiatives, include.io and Tech Jobs Tour, Leanne Pittsford also founded Lesbians Who Tech in 2012. The organization offers programming, visibility, and opportunities to LGBTQ+ women and non-binary individuals who work in tech.
- Megan Smith: Speaking of Tech Jobs Tour, Megan Smith has been working with them to bring diverse talent into the tech world since 2017. Prior to that, she was appointed as the first female Chief Technology Officer of the United States in 2014, under President Obama. She has also served as CEO of LGBTQ+ online media company Planet Out.
- Angelica Ross: Although Angelica Ross has made a huge impact in the tech world, you may also know her from her work as an actress. She has appeared in the YouTube web series “Her Story” as well as FX’s Pose. When she’s not acting, she serves as CEO of the company she founded, TransTech Social Enterprises. TransTech helps transgender and gender-nonconforming people find and prepare for jobs and careers. (Ross herself came out as transgender in 2000.)
You can find information on even more LGBTQ+ STEM figures in the links below. Let us know if we missed one of your heroes, or if there’s someone else we should know about!