Top 10 Most Influential LGBTQ+ People in Tech

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top lgbt people in tech

Despite being one of the most innovative and forward-thinking industries in the world, the tech sector is not exactly renowned for its diversity. For years, the “tech bro” culture that began in Silicon Valley has run rampant across the space, making it difficult for minority groups to enter and remain in the industry. 

A recent survey by the Institution of Engineering and Technology discovered that a third of people avoid careers in the industry due to the fear of homophobia and outdated attitudes in the workplace.

Their fear comes as no surprise. Over half of gay tech workers report hearing jokes about gay people at least once in the workplace, with 1 in 5 being told or implied to dress more masculine or feminine. This has created a hostile environment for LGBTQ+ tech employees, leaving many of them to search for a career in different industries. 

A number of diversity initiatives aimed at LGBTQ+-identifying individuals within the tech sector are trying to change this. Groups like Out in TechStartOut, and Who Tech have worked to improve office culture for gay people and make resources more readily accessible to the global LGBTQ+ community. 

At the forefront of these initiatives are a number of influential and powerful figures in tech who identify as LGBTQ+. While some of these figures prefer to keep their identity private, many have harnessed their influence within the space to speak out about the notable absence of LGBTQ+ people in the tech community. 

To celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month, we’ve compiled a list of the most influential people in tech identifying as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Peter Arvai, CEO and co-founder of Prezi

Peter Arvai is considered to be the first openly gay CEO in Hungary. In 2009, he helped found Prezi, a presentation software alternative to PowerPoint. He approached the TED Conference, given the firm’s common vision of promoting the open exchange and ideas of innovations. In 2014, Prezi received a C series $57 million investment led by Spectrum Equity and Accel Partners. 

Arvai champions diversity and inclusion as a major component of Prezi’s working environment, ensuring that all Prezi’s employees feel comfortable in their own identities. Since his coming out to customers and colleagues in Hungary, many of Arvai’s fellow employees have also come out as LGBTQ, with many of them stating that it made it much easier for them to have a gay CEO. 

"I feel [being openly gay] challenges me to be a better version of myself," Arvai told the Financial Times in a 2018 interview. "The most effective thing anyone can do to encourage openness is being open with their own personal identity and being open to meeting people with other identities."

Sophie Mary Wilson, Designer of BBC Micro and ARM architecture

Sophie Mary Wilson is one of the English computer scientists that helped design the BBC Micro and ARM architecture. In the early days of her career she worked for Acord Computers, where she contributed to the design of the Acorn System 1, an early 8-bit computer, and later the BBC Micro, which became hugely successful in the UK. But Wilson is best known for her development of the Acorn RISC Machine (ARM) processor, which is still used today in 21st-century smartphones and tablets.

Wilson transitioned in 1994 and went on to work at semiconductor manufacturer Broadcom, whose system chip was one of the main components of the Raspberry Pi computer. She still works in the computer industry today and has been awarded a CBE for her services to computing and has received the Fellow Award by the Computer History Museum for her work with Steve Furber on the BBC Microcomputer and ARM processor architecture.

Peter Sisson, Founder and CEO of Yaza and Line2

The current CEO of Yaza, Peter Sisson is a serial entrepreneur. He has founded and managed multiple companies that have seen great success within tech, keeping him at the forefront of the internet industry for almost 15 years. 

His first company,, raised $46 million before it was acquired by Teleo, another one of Sissson’s companies, was an early competitor to Skype and was acquired by Microsoft in 2005. The entrepreneur then founded Line2, an app that provides phone service, which was acquired by J2 Global in June 2018. Sisson is openly gay, and has described being gay as an entrepreneur as a “non-issue.”

"There's never been any sort of problem with anyone finding out that I was gay and suddenly not wanting to do business with me or not wanting to fund me," Sisson said in an interview with Big Think in 2009.

Jon "Maddog" Hall, Board Chair of Linux Professional Institute

Jon Hall, who goes by the nickname ‘Maddog’ is one of the most notable supporters of Unix and Linux systems and an early advocate for free and open-source software and technology. He currently chairs the board of directors for the Linux Professional Institute, a non-profit organisation that offers certification to open-source developers. He is also the CEO of OptDyn, a  cloud platform provider and pioneer for P2P multi-access edge cloud computing. 

Hall revealed his sexuality in 2012 to honour the 100th birthday of famous mathematician Alan Turing, who also identified as gay. Writing in the Linux Magazine in a coming-out piece, Hall wrote: “computer science was a haven for homosexuals, transsexuals and a lot of other “sexuals”, mostly because the history of the science called for fairly intelligent, modern-thinking people. Many computer companies were the first to enact “diversity” programs, and the USENIX organization had a special interest group that was made up of LGBT people.”

Chris Hughes, Co-founder of Facebook

Alongside Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Hughes is one of the four co-founders of Facebook, acting as a key driver in developing many of the site’s popular features, such as it being open to the outside world beyond educational institutions. After leaving Facebook in 2007, Hughes was appointed as one of the 17 people in the UNAIDS High-Level Commission, galvanising support for more effective prevention programmes. 

In 2019, Hughes criticised Facebook, as well as its co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, for allowing politicians to run campaign ads with blatant mistruths. “By deciding to allow outright lies in political ads to travel on Facebook, is embracing the philosophy behind Trumpism and thereby tipping the scales,” he said in a Tweet. Today, Hughes is the co-chair of a financial stability initiative called the Economic Security Project. He has been married to Sean Eldridge since 2012, the former political director for the same- marriage advocacy group Freedom to Marry.

Lynn Conway, chip designer at IBM

Lynn Conway is one of the most renowned engineers of supercomputers and microchip design. Her innovations during the 1970s at the XeroxPalo Alto Research Centre have impacted chip design worldwide, with many of today’s Big Tech firms having foundations in her work. At IBM, she invented a powerful method for issuing multiple out-of-order instructions in supercomputers. This solved the challenge of the fundamental computer architecture problem, making it possible to create the first true superscalar computer. 

Conway's notable role at IBM was kept secret for many years due to her transgender identity. IBM fired Conway when she began transitioning while employed at the firm, forcing her to go “stealth” and start her life again as Lynn. Lynn, quickly rose to prominence when the Department of Defence began using her work on secret projects. She would later come out publicly as transgender in the early 2000s and has since become a powerful advocate for the trans community.

"When I made the decision to have a gender correction, everybody told me I was terrible, I was going to end up dead or in an asylum someplace," Conway. told ABC News in an interview. "But they were wrong. I’ve had a great life, I’m very happy, and I’ve managed to do some productive, important work."

Mary Ann Horton, Usenet and Internet Pioneer

A renowned Usenet and Internet pioneer, Mary Ann Horton is a computer scientist,  transgender educator and activist. She contributed to Berkeley UNIX (BSD), including the vi editor and term info database, creating the first email binary attachment tool Uencode, as well as contributing to the growth of Usenet in the late 1980s. In addition to her contributions to technology, Horton has also made significant contributions to transgender rights in the workplace. 

In 1997, she successfully requested that her employer, Lucent technology, include the language “gender identity characteristics, or expression” in its Equal Opportunity nondiscrimination policy, leading to Lucent becoming the first US company to add transgender-inclusive language to the Equal employment policy. She has also championed the language and insurance and coverage of transgender health benefits at other companies.

Vivienne Ming, Co-founder of Muse and Socos

Vivienne Ming is an American theoretical neuroscientist and artificial intelligence and machine-learning expert. She has used her background in neuroscience, data mining, technology and business, as well as her experiences as a transgender woman towards her mission of recognising and maximizing human potential. 

Ming is the co-founder of Muse, a machine-learning-based tool for parents that recommend research-based activities to support children’s creativity, motivation and emotional intelligence. She is also co-founder of Socos, which uses a combination of machine learning and cognitive neuroscience to help maximise student outcomes.

In 2005, Vivienne came out as transgender to her fiancé Norma and they married a year later. She has been heavily involved with Startout – a group for LGBT entrepreneurs – since its inception. She was named one of the BBC’s 100 women in 2017 and featured on the Financial Times’ outstanding LGBT leaders and allies in 2018

Claudia Brind-, Managing Director at IBM

Claudia Brind is the managing director and senior advocate across multiple LGBTQ+ networks. She has worked for IBM since the 1990s and has dedicated her position in the company to championing how an inclusive work environment can benefit the enterprise and spur positive societal change.

Though born in America, Brind- works for IBM UK and lives in England with her wife, Tracie. She is one of the strongest voices for the LGBTQ+ community in Big tech and has shaped IBM over the years and influenced other tech giants to introduce their own diversity and inclusivity initiatives. She is the co-chair of the advisory board at workplace and Pride and serves on the board for the workplace equality advocacy group Out and Equal

“When our employees don’t have to think twice about struggling for the same benefits and recognition… then productivity goes up,” Brind- told Business Insider in 2016.“That focus on an individual's talents, and playing to each person’s strengths, has been so amazingly effective.”

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

As the first openly gay CEO at a major tech corporation, Tim Cook is not only the most influential LGBTQ+ representation in tech but also one of the most powerful figures in the industry itself. Cook became Apple’s CEO in August 2011, previously serving as the company’s COO. After acting as CEO for three years, Cook came out as gay in a personal essay for Bloomberg Businessweek, making him the first LGBTQ+ person to feature on the Fortune 500. 

Since coming out, Cook has become one of the most powerful voices for the LGBTQ+ community. He has previously spoken out against anti-gay laws in the US and has advocated for diversity and inclusion across the tech space. 

“Throughout my professional life, I’ve tried to maintain a basic level of privacy. I come from humble roots, and I don’t seek to draw attention to myself. While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me,” Cook wrote in his essay for Bloomberg.