Celebrating Queer Trailblazers in Tech: Pioneers Who Defied Boundaries

Hack the North
5 min readJun 8, 2023
Illustration by: Ingrid Wong & Phuong Tu

Written by: Emily Dai

Throughout history, 2SLGBTQ+ individuals have made significant contributions to the field of technology, despite often being overlooked or underrepresented. Their innovative ideas, skills, and perspectives have impacted the tech landscape profoundly. It is crucial to give queer people the visibility they deserve, not only to celebrate their achievements but also to inspire and empower others in 2SLGBTQ+ communities. While progress has been made, there is still a long way to go in achieving true and equal representation for queer individuals in the tech industry. Read on to hear stories of some queer tech innovators, as well as what Hack the North is doing to advocate for change, so we can work towards a more inclusive and diverse tech community that embraces and uplifts all voices.

Alan Turing

A Mathematical Genius and Codebreaker

Alan Turing was a British mathematician and computer scientist, who played an instrumental role in cracking the German Enigma code during World War II, a critical achievement that is said to have shortened the war and saved over 14 million lives. Turing’s contributions to computer science extended beyond his wartime accomplishments. He is considered the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. Despite his exceptional contribution, Turing faced constant persecution for his homosexuality. Unfortunately his achievements weren’t acknowledged until long after his death. His legacy continues to inspire future generations and his contributions remind us that the technical progress that we have today wouldn’t be without queer innovators.

Sophie Wilson showing an ARM Processor

Architect of the ARM Architecture

Sophie Wilson is widely recognized for her influential work in developing the Acorn RISC Machine (ARM) architecture. Her contributions to the development of the ARM processor, a dominant force in modern computing, have had an immense impact on the tech industry. Most mobile devices run on ARM processors due to its superior power efficiency and streamlined processing power. Wilson’s brilliance in computer engineering, combined with her unyielding determination, paved the way for numerous advancements in mobile computing, embedded systems, and beyond. As a trans woman in tech, Wilson’s achievements are a testament to the power of diverse perspectives and talents.

Sally Ride in space

Breaking Barriers in Space Exploration and STEM Education

Sally Ride, an American physicist and astronaut, made history in 1983 as the first American woman to travel to space. Throughout her career, Ride was not only an accomplished astronaut but also a passionate advocate for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education, particularly for young girls. While not openly discussed during her lifetime, after her death, Ride’s obituary revealed that she had been in a long-term same-sex relationship. Ride’s accomplishments continue to inspire aspiring scientists and serve as a reminder that diversity and representation are vital in all fields of exploration.

Despite the crucial contributions of queer individuals to the tech industry, they continue to face numerous barriers today. Discrimination and bias persist, manifesting in various forms such as unequal opportunities, workplace harassment, and exclusionary practices. Stereotypes and misconceptions about queer people may create additional challenges, perpetuating harmful biases and limiting their advancement in the industry. Systemic inequalities further compound the difficulties faced by queer individuals, including limited access to resources, mentorship, and networking opportunities. Addressing these barriers and dismantling these practices is essential to create an environment where everyone in tech can thrive and contribute their unique perspectives and talents to the fullest.

At Hack the North, we’re committed to reducing these barriers by creating an accessible and inclusive environment for everyone. We’ve taken the necessary steps to ensure our hackathon is as impactful and engaging as possible for all hackers.

The Empowerment Lounge

We are excited to bring back the Empowerment Lounge this year. This lounge is a vibrant space designed to host empowering meetups. From the 2SLGBTQ+ hacker meetup to the Women in Tech meetup, this space encourages individuals to challenge norms and redefine the boundaries of who can thrive in the tech industry. It serves as a powerful catalyst for conversations, collaboration, and the celebration of diversity.

Community Bay

The Community Bay is a new initiative for Hack the North 2023. In this year’s event, we are curating a massive physical space that serves as a gateway to new problem spaces. Community Bay aims to inspire hackers by exposing them to diverse topics and problem areas that ignite their passion. By inviting representatives from various clubs, organizations, and social groups in the Waterloo region, including 2SLGBTQ+ clubs and organizations, we provide a unique opportunity for participants to find inspiration and make connections that resonate with their personal lives. Hackers who visit the Community Bay during the event will have the opportunity to incorporate this inspiration into their project submissions, helping the connections formed in the Bay to live for longer than the event weekend.

Commitment to Accessibility and Inclusivity

Internally, we remain dedicated to ensuring accessibility and inclusivity across all our operations. To accomplish this, we follow a comprehensive DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) checklist that has been updated for 2023. Here are just some of the many commitments we are proud to make:

Access to gender-neutral washrooms within our event space, creating a safe and inclusive environment for everyone.

Provision of free sanitary products to ensure the comfort and well-being of all attendees.

Reducing barriers to participation by offering individual accommodations for those who require them, ensuring that everyone has equal opportunities to engage in activities and events.

These commitments reflect just a few of the many steps we are taking to promote inclusivity and diversity at Hack the North 2023. We believe in creating an environment where everyone feels welcome, respected, and valued.

Happy Pride Month everyone, thank you for being a part of our journey in making tech spaces more inclusive!

— Team Hack the North 💙⚙️

Special thanks to Carter W. and Kevin G. for proofreading and editing this post!

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