There’s a rich history of LGBTQ leaders in tech who’ve left their mark on the world. Still, representation today is not where it should be, though a host of companies have set ambitious goals to improve diversity across their organizations.
The work is ongoing and the leaders below have long committed to doing that work. They’re entrepreneurs and designers, advocates and ambassadors, who are committed to change and push us toward a more diverse and equitable future.
1. Angelica Ross, Tech Entrepreneur
Ross wowed us as Candy Ferocity on Pose and terrified us as the corrupt psychologist Donna Chambers in American Horror Story: 1984. But did you know the GLAAD Media Award winner is also a tech entrepreneur?
“At TransTech, we’ve created a space for trans people to come together, work together, laugh together, go to lunch together, There’s strength in numbers. They’re building networks, and down the line, they’ll think of each other when it comes to jobs.”
–Angelica Ross, tech entrepreneur (and actress)
Furthermore, TransTech has a vast network of talented trans workers that tech companies can easily find, contact, and hire. “TransTech was an act of love,” Ross told Queerty in a 2019 interview. “It’s an incubator for people to be able to blossom and bloom in their own time.”
2. LaTecia Johnson, Entrepreneur/Podcast Host
“I was the kid who took apart remote controls to see how they worked,” says LaTecia Johnson, an Austin-based, Y-Combinator graduate. In 2013, Johnson made her first foray into tech working for the research firm Nielsen on their mobile measurement scheme. She was able to lead initiatives and marry her creative interests with her newfound love of tech.
“Growing up, I was told that tech and science were things you could do, but if you’re creative you should focus on creating,” she says. It’s Johnson’s ability to combine a knowledge of tech with a creative approach to publicity, talent management, and innovation—as well as a deep understanding of millennial and Gen Z marketing—that sets her event agency, Visionary Rising, apart. “[Before,] I was working at [tech] companies and I was the person saying, ‘Okay, what you’re trying to say isn’t coming across. The demographic you’re trying to reach isn’t responding, and here’s why.'”
When the pandemic hit and South by Southwest was canceled, Visionary Rising pivoted quickly. “We had to shift into the live-stream market, understanding what is now and what needs to be accelerated,” she told marketing journalist Mike White in 2020. The focus shift paid off. Adopting virtual events proved to be the right move during a year when many event companies decided to simply close up shop. “Virtual is here to stay,” explained Johnson, who was an early adopter of the virtual event. She notes that even when things open back up, the virtual space is going to keep developing alongside live events.
Throughout the turbulent last year, Johnson continued to release her podcast Creatives on the Rise since 2019, a show that helps creatives infuse their side hustles with the technological know-how they need to take them to the next level. Meanwhile, Visionary Rising is now working with huge clients like Apple Music, Skillshare, Freeform, and Soundstripe.
3. Ginger Chien, Device Architect
AT&T device architect Ginger Chien has been on the job for 25 years. When she started, trans visibility in tech was nearly non-existent. She was drawn to AT&T for its inclusive outlook and LGBTQ resource group. It was the company handbook, in fact, that laid out, in explicit terms, the possibility of transitioning at work. Since that time, she’s designed cellphones for the company and holds over 50 shared and solo patents to her name.
“Tech is a place where your performance is really easy to quantify,” Chien told ABC News in March. “I think it creates room for people who may be different in some way, but are also able to apply some of those arcane skills to … tech.”
“Tech is a place where your performance is really easy to quantify. I think it creates room for people who may be different in some way, but are also able to apply some of those arcane skills to tech.”
–Ginger Chien, device architect, AT&T
In addition to her work at AT&T, Chien is on the Lesbians Who Tech and PFLAG Bellevue/Eastside chapter advisory boards. She also speaks at conferences and schools about implementing better diversity and inclusion protocols.
4. Ava Pipitone, UX Designer
Dancer and biohacker Ava Pipitone considers herself an “ambassador of the future.” She founded the home-sharing platform HostHome, which aids homeless trans people facing mistreatment in shelters. Similar in operation to websites like Airbnb or VrBO, HostHome helps people—particularly trans individuals in emergency situations—find secure and safe housing. Although HostHome is on pause due to the pandemic, Pipitone is hard at work on a tech-driven real estate project based in Bali in the interim.
“I believe businesses build consumer habits and habits impact culture,” says Pipitone. “Culture then interacts with mythology to guide community behavior. Customer journeys create a culture more directly than we realize. So I see UX design as architecting reality.”
5. Max Masure, UX Researcher
Named one of Hive Learning’s most influential DEI leaders in 2019 and 2020, Max Masure believes inclusion shouldn’t be “a siloed initiative.” The ethical UX researcher, consultant, author, and speaker pulls from over a decade of industry experience. “We need inclusion in leadership, people with diverse backgrounds and identities representing our actual society,” they say. “We need inclusive processes by creating products and services that will benefit the most vulnerable communities instead of harming marginalized folks.”
Masure also recognizes how far we’ve come: When they first started in the industry, recruiters told them to stay in the closet in order to get more work. Today, they’re out and proud, continually pushing for change wherever they go.
“I host workshops on how to conduct ethical UX research, why pronouns matter, and how to design for and with trans and gender-nonconforming folks,” they explain. “I’m coaching CEOs to be comfortable with discomfort because this is how we grow and evolve and reduce our biases. I believe in small actions that bring colossal impact. When a CEO values DEI, the whole company benefits from it, and underserved customers will receive better service in the long term.”
These are just a few of the dozens of LGBTQ leaders pushing for necessary inclusion and change. Their commitment and determination promises a brighter future not only for the queer community, but for all of us.