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June 3, 2022

Pride Month: Supporting LGBTQ+ in Tech

Decorative image: “Happy LGBTQ pride month” text in circle rainbow flag with Electric Circuit Line Art around on dark background vector design.

An article published in Science Advances in June 2021, “Systemic Inequalities for LGBTQ Professionals in STEM,” outlines results from a study of 25,000 full-time employed STEM professionals, over a thousand of whom identify as LGBTQ. According to the findings, “LGBTQ STEM professionals were more likely to experience career limitations, harassment and professional devaluation than their non-LGBTQ peers. They also reported more frequent health difficulties and were more likely to intend to leave STEM.”

The article concludes that “STEM workplaces need to include LGBTQ status in their broad efforts toward diversity and inclusion, provide LGBTQ employees with opportunities to network and seek support … and ensure that LGBTQ persons have access to the full suite of formal and informal benefits enjoyed by their non-LGBTQ colleagues.”

In honor of Pride Month and in support of LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff, the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) has pulled together a list of resources, including on-campus support, nationwide organizations for networking, and articles and books that focus on LGBTQ+ in STEM. We also highlight current leaders in tech and some faculty members who are doing cutting-edge work in ICS.

Debra Richardson has short brownish-blonde hair and hazel eyes. She has matching earrings and a necklace that are silver, gold and black. She is wearing a dark purple blouse and coat, and has rose-colored lipstick. She is smiling while posed against a burnt orange colored background.

“From Alan Turing to Audrey Tang, the LGBTQ+ community has made remarkable contributions to the field of computing,” says Debra Richardson, the founding dean of ICS. “This month and throughout the entire year, let’s celebrate those contributions. All of us in the LGBTQ+ community deserve to feel welcomed, valued and supported by our peers.”

Fostering Campus Support
The UCI Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center (LGBTRC) provides a wide range of education and advocacy services supporting intersectional identity development. It fosters community, wellness, and an open and inclusive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex, transgender, queer, asexual, ally, and questioning students, faculty, staff, and the larger campus community. It strives to develop an atmosphere of acceptance and well-being in which the campus community can support the academic mission of the university.

There is also a student organization called QT-STEM, which has a Facebook page that queer and/or trans people who are part of STEM fields — and their allies — can join. The group aims to create a more visible LGBTQ+ community in what can be an underrepresented area of academia, and they work to build support systems and connections to resources for LGBTQ+ people at all levels of the campus community (undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral, technicians, staff and faculty) in STEM fields.

Exploring LGBTQ+ Networking in STEM
For support beyond UCI, specific to STEM and the tech sector, there is a variety of nationwide and global organizations:

  • InterEngineering is a London-based group that aims to connect, inform and empower LGBTQ+ engineers to foster greater inclusion in engineering.
  • Lesbians Who Tech is a community of LGBTQ women, non-binary and trans individuals in and around tech (and the people who support them).
  • LGBTQ+STEM is working to improve LGBTQ+ visibility in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
  • LGBT Tech develops programs and resources that support LGBTQ+ communities and works to educate organizations and policymakers on the unique needs LGBTQ+ individuals face when it comes to tech.
  • LGBTQ in Technology Slack is a space for LGBTQ people in technology to chat and support each other.
  • Maven Youth empowers LGBT+ youth to network, organize and educate for social change through technology and the tech sector.
  • Out in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (oSTEM) is a nonprofit professional association for LGBTQ+ people in the STEM community.
  • Out in Tech creates opportunities for its members to advance their careers, grow their networks and leverage tech for social change.
  • Out to Innovate is a professional society and global community of LGBTQ+ students and professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
  • Pride in Stem is a charity run by an independent group of LGBTQIA+ scientists and engineers from around the world.

Reading and Learning
Who are some LGBTQ+ individuals whose work has played an integral role in the development of modern computer technology? As noted in the article, “Programming Pride: 10 LGBTQI+ Pioneers of Computer Science,” Alan Turing and Apple CEO Tim Cook are just two of many such pioneers. The list starts with Russian mathematician Sofia Kovalevskaya (1850-1891) and concludes with Taiwanese computer programmer Audrey Tang.

Also read “A Talk with Dr. Lauren Esposito, Founder of 500 Queer Scientists.” 500 QS is a visibility campaign for LGBTQ+ people and their allies working in STEM and STEM-supporting jobs. “When it comes to being an ally, visibility really isn’t enough,” stresses Esposito. “Being an ally is an action, and if you aren’t actively doing something to make spaces more equitable and inclusive, then intentions aside, you aren’t yet helping make STEM better.” As noted earlier, studies show tech is still dangerous and unwelcoming for LGBTQ employees, so allies are greatly needed.

To gain a better understanding of LGBTQ+ contributions and to help change the culture, consider reading some of the following books:

  • The Digital Closet: How the Internet Became Straight by Alexander Monea;
  • Information Activism: A Queer History of Lesbian Media Technologies (Sign, Storage, Transmission) by Cait McKinney;
  • LGBTQ Digital Cultures: A Global Perspective by Pain Paromita;
  • Pride in STEM by Emilie Dufresne (children’s book);
  • Queer Data: Using Gender, Sex and Sexuality Data for Action by Kevin Guyan; and
  • Video Games Have Always Been Queer by Bonnie Ruberg.

And for all you statisticians, be sure to read, “Towards Statistics Best Practices for Gender and Sex Data,” a paper outlining basic concepts to move us toward better practices for collecting and analyzing data about human gender and sex.

We also want to share two recommendations from Professor Roderic Crooks of the Department of Informatics:

  • Aberrations in Black: Toward a Queer of Color Critique by Roderick Ferguson, and
  • Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics by José Esteban Muñoz.

“I use queer of color critique in my research. It’s a framework from theorists such as Roderick Ferguson and José Esteban Muñoz that attends to power and the formation of the public,” says Crooks. “I take the term ‘minoritized’ from this body of work and apply it to research on social computing and public life. This is a terminological intervention that has been quite useful in human-computer interaction, for example.”

Crooks explains that unlike terms such as “underrepresented,” “minority,” or “underserved,” the term “minoritized” draws attention to the specific contours of American racial and sexual hierarchy in public life. “This term emphasizes power relations rather than demography,” he says, “and points to the ways that the public sphere is defined, constituted and managed according to the specific interests of a dominant cultural group and according to enduring structural hierarchies based on race, class, gender, sexuality, legal status, disability and other consequential, interlocking forms of difference.”

Following Influential Leaders
Here is a list of 10 LGBTQ+ influencers you might want to start following on LinkedIn if you aren’t already:

  • Peter Arvai is executive chair and co-founder of Prezi, a software company that specializes in cloud-based presentations.
  • Claudia Brind-Woody is a managing director at IBM and a champion of diversity and inclusion.
  • Ann Mei Chang is CEO of Candid and author of Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good.
  • John “Maddog” Hall is a board chair at Linus Professional Institute.
  • Arlan Hamilton is founder and CTO of Backstage Capital, which invests in companies led by women, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals.
  • Juergen Maier is former CEO of Siemens UK and co-founder of vocL, which empowers responsible business voices.
  • Vivienne Ming is co-founder and executive chair of Socos, which aims to combine machine learning and neuroscience to maximize the potential of students.
  • Mark McBride-Wright is chair and co-founder of InterEngineering.
  • Leanne Pittsford is founder and CTO of Lesbians Who Tech.
  • Hayley Sudbury is founder and CEO of WERKIN, an analytics platform that utilizes behavioral science to improve diversity in company hiring practices.

These names are pulled from “27 LGBTQ+ Scientists and Tech Leaders Shaping Our Future,” so read the full article to learn about other inspiring CEOs, engineers and entrepreneurs who are working to break down barriers. You can also read a variety of personal “LGBTQIA+ in tech” stories through a series of blogs posted by Thoughtworks, a leading global technology consultancy company.

Spotlighting ICS Faculty
Here, we spotlight three LGBTQ+ faculty members from our ICS community:

Matthew Bietz has blue eyes and short hair with shades of brown, red and gray. His mustache and beard are gray and red, and he is smiling. He’s wearing a blue, white and black checkered shirt, and the backdrop is blue.

Lecturer Matthew Bietz teaches human-computer interaction (HCI), design and software engineering in the Department of Informatics. His research focuses on data infrastructures that support collaborative work and social interaction, with a particular focus on the ethical aspects of pervasive data and algorithms. “The impacts of algorithmic and data-centric technologies are often felt most strongly by marginalized communities, including LGBTQ+ people,” says Bietz. “In both my research and teaching, I advocate for bringing justice into the design of information technologies.”

Roderic Crooks has a serious look as he stands in front of the stair railing in Donald Bren Hall. He is wearing glasses with a silver frame and has very short white hair, and brown and white facial hair. He is wearing a navy blue shirt with a gray blazer.

Assistant Professor of Informatics Roderic Crooks studies the intersections of race, technology and public life. His current project explores how community organizers in working-class communities of color use data for activist projects, even as they dispute the proliferation of data-intensive technologies in education, law enforcement, financial services and other vital sites of civic concern. He has published extensively in HCI, science and technology studies (STS) and social science venues on topics including political theories of online participation, equity of access and document theory.

Theresa Jean Tanenbaum has curly, shoulder-length brown hair. Her bright green eyes appear behind black-rimmed glasses that have a white design in the corner. She has a piercing in her left eyebrow, pink lipstick, and a silver chain necklace with purple beads.

Theresa Jean Tanenbaum, associate professor of informatics, is a game designer, artist, maker and founding member of the Transformative Play Lab. Tanenbaum is a transgender woman, whose work is engaged with issues of gender, identity and narrative. Her research draws on insights from digital interactive narrative, digital games, social justice, design fiction, futures studies and extended reality theater. Her ongoing work on “transformative play” draws on techniques from theater practice to create and explore playful experiences that communicate different perspectives on the world, encouraging players to viscerally inhabit new identities and experiences. Her article, “Publishers: Let Transgender Scholars Correct Their Names,” highlights the start of her years-long battle to make name-change policies more inclusive. She has since helped release guiding principles that have been adopted by most major publishers.

“As a transgender woman, Pride Month is a time when I find myself reflecting on the legacy of the trans and gender-nonconforming people who spearheaded the Stonewall riots that gave birth to the contemporary pride movement,” says Tanenbaum. “Trans people of color like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson argued for a liberation of LGBTQ+ people that transcended assimilation into the mainstream, and I celebrate Pride as an opportunity to push myself to be more active in my own efforts toward queer emancipation.”

Tanenbaum’s recent work in this area takes the form of an autobiographical musical about her life: a “radical testimonial” that takes place within a historical and political context of intense transphobia. In 2022, legislators in the U.S. introduced an unprecedented number of bills attacking the human rights, dignity and autonomy of LGBTQ+ people, with the majority targeting transgender people. In 2021, a UCLA study showed that transgender people are more than four times as likely as cisgender people to be the victims of violent crime. “During Pride Month,” says Tanenbaum, “we seek to push back against the tide of bigotry by sharing our stories, raising our voices and reminding each other and the world that no amount of hatred will stop queer and trans people from being born, or from coming out and demanding the basic human dignity that other people would seek to deny us.”

Shani Murray