The Growing Movement to Fix Discrimination Against LGBTQIA Tech Workers

There’s still an acceptance gap

  • LGBTQIA+ people often face discrimination while working in the tech industry.
  • Two nonprofits are joining forces to improve working conditions for LGBTQIA+ tech workers.
  • Promoting leaders in the tech industry who are LGBTQIA+ can improve working conditions for everyone, observers say.
Three people working around a laptop that's covered in stickers, including a pride decal.

Mapbox / Unsplash

The tech world can be unfriendly for many LGBTQIA+ workers, and there's a growing movement to improve conditions. 

CompTIA, the nonprofit association for the information technology (IT) industry and workforce, announced recently that it is collaborating with Out in Tech, the world's largest community of LGBTQ+ tech professionals. The groups say they seek greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Some LGBTQIA+ advocates say progress has stalled. 

"Although we've seen progress in recent years, the tech industry is still overwhelmingly homogenous at the leadership level (heterosexual, cis male, and white)," Sarah E. Brown, an LGBTQIA+ tech executive and the author of the new book "Lead Upwards," told Lifewire in an email interview. "It is a multi-trillion dollar industry, and when LGBTQ workers aren't represented at the decision-making levels, we face barriers to promotion and inclusion."

Cold Shoulders

CompTIA and Out in Tech will collaborate on expanding a peer network for sharing best practices, exploring emerging topics in workplace belonging, and peer consulting on related initiatives.

"When it comes to diversity in tech, 40 minds are better than one," Andrew Lowenthal, the executive director of Out in Tech, said in the news release. "By weaving together the collective experiences of our founding members, we will shine a light on what's working, push the envelope with new ideas, and create more equitable and inclusive workplaces for all underrepresented groups. We're thrilled to have CompTIA as our newest member."

Don't let an anti-LGBTQIA+ culture take root in the form of mean-spirited jokes about pronouns or other issues that are important to the gay community.

Research shows that LGBTQ tech employees face challenges at work. A report published by Wiley Edge in September found that 56 percent of LGTBQ+ professionals working in tech have felt uncomfortable in a job because of their gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic background, or neurodevelopmental condition. 

The Digital Planet research initiative at Tufts University said in a recent study that the tech industry suffers from a "Pride paradox," as fewer people—especially men—are out in tech compared to their peers elsewhere.

The research shows that the share of those who expressed LGBTQ+ affiliation on their resumes is smaller in tech than among college graduates overall; they also find that women are more likely to affiliate with LGBTQ+ than are men, according to nationwide polls, and that this disparity widens in tech than in other fields. 

Cari Campbell, the chief technology officer of NPO YR Media, said in an email interview with Lifewire that during the early years of the tech industry in the San Francisco area, there was "openness and inclusiveness." 

But, Campbell said, as the industry grew, a male-dominated culture developed. "Bro culture values a specific type of masculinity that is exclusive, and, unfortunately, the LGBTQIA+ community has been on the receiving end of this exclusivity," Campbell added. "It has contributed to issues with equal pay, career advancement, harassment, and organizational performance."

Closeup of someone in a hospital, wearing a Pride bracelet, using a laptop and smartphone.

Manuel Arias Duran / Getty Images

Making Things Better

Campbell said that promoting LGBTQIA+ leaders in the tech industry can improve working conditions. "Giving LGBTQIA+ workers a seat at the table will benefit your entire organization and can inspire and motivate your rising stars because they now have something to strive for in regard to viable career development," Campbell added.

The surge in working from home has helped many LGBTQIA+ workers, Humera Shahid, the head of diversity equity and inclusion for the financial software company Intuit, said in an email interview. 

"Thanks to the video on or off options on Zoom, one of our nonbinary employees shared their experience of feeling like they now have a curtain they can open or close at any time," Shahid added. "This has empowered them to experiment with their presentation as opposed to performing femininity. Just enabling our workforce to work remotely or in person gives LGBTQ+ workers flexibility."

Creating an inclusive workplace is key to helping end discrimination, Irma Olguin Jr., the co-founder of Bitwise Industries, told Lifewire via email. 

"Make it easy for people to be out at work and to know they are supported when they face issues," Olguin said. "Don't let an anti-LGBTQIA+ culture take root in the form of mean-spirited jokes about pronouns or other issues that are important to the gay community."

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