| OUTSIDE THE BOX
Six Groups Making the Tech Sector More Inclusive to LGBTQ+ Workers
by Michelle Fitzhugh-Craig
In June, individuals across the country are celebrating Pride Month, which is the annual recognition of LGBTQ+ people. Its observance began after the Stonewall riots in 1969. Like other months that recognize the rights, culture, and accomplishments of underrepresented communities, Pride Month often focuses on the past instead of creating current and effective ways to propel those in the community forward both individually and collectively. Those of us who identify as LGBTQ+ are no different in having this dearth of solutions for more inclusivity.
The technology industry is one of several sectors that could be more inclusive. Blind, a platform whose mission is to inspire change in the workplace, reports that only 35% of LGBTQ+ and 41% of trans or gender-nonconforming workers say they feel “represented in upper management at their company.” So how do we create safe and supportive spaces that encourage LGBTQ+ employees (and prospective employees) to want to climb the ladder to positions that allow them to reach back and help others? One way is by supporting initiatives that are motivating, inspiring, and giving people the support and direction needed to make sure our future in tech looks different from our past. The following is a diverse mix of groups that cater to building diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace and in the field of technology, for college students and adult workers.
LESBIANS WHO TECH
The Lesbians Who Tech organization has two goals I like the most: to be more visible to each other and to be more visible to others. It can be discouraging when people are unable to see others like themselves where they work. But more importantly, Lesbians Who Tech works hard to make sure those inside and outside tech companies can see the impact that LGBTQ+ employees are making and, at the same time, encouraging youths and young adults to follow them. Based in San Francisco, this nonprofit continues to look for team members to join the organization on its mission. It holds annual tech-focused summits and boasts a long list of supporters and allies.
“We will not rest until every LGBTQ+ entrepreneur has the support and the resources they need to fairly compete in today’s business world” is the sentence that resonates with me most on StartOut’s About page. The nonprofit is a San Francisco-based company that launched in 2009 “to combat discrimination in the business world” and to promote equal access for LGBTQ+ people who are growing and maintaining their business.
PRIDE IN STEM
The Pride in STEM charitable trust is run by an independent group of LGBTQ+ scientists and engineers from around the globe. Focusing on those in and interested in STEM careers, the group primarily hosts events that feature speakers and networking opportunities. Its aim is to challenge people’s perceptions of what scientists should be like by showing that not everyone working in STEM is the same. This is an important goal because only 60% of LGBTQ+ individuals are out in this field, and 30% of U.S. physicists are told to “stay in the closet,” Pride in STEM reports on its website.
OUT FOR UNDERGRAD
Since 2004, the Out for Undergrad (O4U) nonprofit has helped LGBTQ+ undergraduates reach their full potential professionally. It does this by hosting four unique annual conferences that focus on business, engineering, marketing, and technology; the latter is known as O4U Tech. Students are invited to apply to attend an event, which covers the cost of airfare, lodging, and conference participation to network, develop coaching relationships, and join in discussions “around being LGBTQ-identified in the workplace.” A plus is that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students are also invited to apply so that they can begin the search early for employers who will hire them, regardless of immigration status.
LGBTQ IN TECHNOLOGY
The support of allies is always welcome, but for the LGBTQ in Technology group—which is run on Slack—only those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, nonbinary, gender-nonconforming, queer, and/or are questioning are allowed to join. The channel began in 2019 after several members of Slack’s Out employee resource group held a hackathon for those within the organization who identify as LGBTQ+ to celebrate one another. A strict code of conduct and a well-thought-out set of guidelines have propelled this group to more than 20,000 members who are looking for job opportunities, learning about upcoming community events, and sharing similar interests.
TransTech Social is an incubator for LGBTQ+ talent with a focus on supporting the trans community. It is “a co-working, co-learning community dedicated to empowering trans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer people and allies with practical, career-ready skills,” the website states. TransTech Social was founded in 2014 by trailblazer and media star Angelica Ross. An annual summit and smaller programs help individuals gain employment-ready skills. Per its About page, it aims “[t]o create a gender-expansive, affirming, and sustainable tech industry by working with dedicated leadership, active community members, and diverse corporate partners.”