Spotlighting Pride Initiatives in Tech
Written by: Carter Watkinson
Happy Pride hackers! In honor of Pride, we want to highlight some of the history of the Pride movement, from its origins to present day. Hack the North’s mission is to empower hackers, which means helping give queer hackers a space in tech. We wanted to show off 3 groups we think are doing a great job of supporting 2SLGBTQ+ communities in tech, and close out with a Hack the North perspective on Pride, including the return of a classic Hack the North Pride initiative 👀
The origins of Pride
In North America, the Pride movement began as a response to police brutality against members of the queer community in Greenwich Village, New York City. In June of 1969, New York City police raided a gay bar known as the Stonewall Inn, as homosexuality was criminalized at that time. As an act of resistance, patrons of the bar started a 400-strong riot; a key moment in the history of 2SLGBTQ+ rights. In Canada in 1974, four lesbian women known as the “Brunswick Four” were beaten while in the custody of Toronto police, with the officers eventually acquitted after a faulty trial. Each of these events prompted a massive show of support from local 2SLGBTQ+ communities, from bailout funds to riots. Despite mistreatment by law enforcement, queer people continued to demonstrate and gain more ground in their battle for rights, demonstrating the importance of resisting resisting police brutality to the Pride movement.
In 1978, San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker designed the iconic Pride flag which features the six colors of a natural rainbow 🏳️🌈 During this era, Pride parades advocated for individual liberty, expression, and diversity among 2SLGBTQ+ communities. Throughout the 1980s, U.S. and Canadian governments neglected the spread of the AIDS epidemic, which they falsely believed only affected queer people. This lack of support prompted demonstrations during Pride month, such as the display of the AIDS memorial quilt, a memorial of the lives that were lost due to governments’ lack of support of 2SLGBTQ+ communities. As public acceptance of queer people increased, corporations and politicians began to support the Pride movement and parades continued to expand across the world 🗺
Pride is now celebrated each June by millions of people worldwide, and activists around the world continue to champion 2SLGBTQ+ rights.
Pride from a tech perspective
From 2SLGBTQ+ employee groups to speaker series starring queer public figures, countless tech companies celebrate queerness, both externally and among their own employees.
In recent years, criticism towards the corporate support of Pride has been mounting. Members of queer communities have called corporate Pride movements performative, with Pride branding used as a sales tactic to promote corporate interests. Many companies loudly broadcast their support of Pride, but support legislation against queer people. As such, this year, Hack the North wants to highlight not-for-profit (NFP) spaces and organizations which unequivocally support 2SLBGTQ+ community members in the tech space.
Grassroots Pride movements within tech:
- QueerTech (https://www.queertech.org/)
QueerTech started as a Montréal-based meetup group in 2016, with the goal of connecting 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals within the local tech scene. In 2018, they officially incorporated as a not-for-profit organization. They remain based in Montréal, but are committed to breaking barriers for queer folks in the tech industry Canada-wide. QueerTech has works to educate companies on how they can be more inclusive to queer individuals, as well as promoting connection through various events.
- LGBTQ in Technology Slack (https://lgbtq.technology/)
The LGBTQ in Technology Slack is a Slack workspace which provides a space for queer people in tech to chat and support one another. It includes hundreds of channels, including region-based and recruitment-focused channels. The space is exclusively for queer people in tech, and requires a brief application before being accepted. They’re always accepting new members, so check out their site for details on how to join!
- Out in Tech (https://outintech.com/)
Out in Tech is a non profit organization that aims to give queer people a sense of belonging in the tech industry. This is achieved via the organization’s 100+ annual events, an 18,000 member strong Slack community, and more. One highlight for our hackers is Out in Tech U, a division of Out in Tech that focuses on the next generation of queer tech professionals, aged 17–24, via mentorship and community partnerships. You can even sign up for their newsletter for more info about OiT events in a city near you!
What Hack the North is doing
As a not-for-profit organization, Hack the North is committed to helping queer hackers find a space in tech. We believe that everybody belongs in tech — this year, we’d like to highlight two steps we’re taking for hackers as we strive to make our event more inclusive for all 💙
DEI Checklist 📋 — In addition to each organizer challenging themselves to take part in conversations and self-education about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, we have also developed a DEI checklist that we use to make sure Hack the North is an inclusive and accessible event for attendees from all backgrounds, including members of 2SLGBTQ+ communities. This checklist includes actionable steps that Hack the North organizers can take to ensure inclusivity is a requirement, not an afterthought. The list includes steps to be taken before, during, and after our event. Here’s some of the checklist items on our list:
Ensure that gender neutral washrooms are available to all hackers
Introduce yourself with your pronouns; during registration, provide a place for pronouns on name tags
Use a gender decoder tool to ensure gender-neutral language for all copy
…and many, many more!
Empowerment Lounge 🛋 — Hack the North is excited to formally announce the return of the empowerment lounge! 😱 The Empowerment Lounge is an initiative that provides a space to challenge the norms of who can exist in tech and meet other hackers, mentors, and sponsors of diverse backgrounds. The Empowerment Lounge also hosts meetups such as the 2SLGBTQ+ hacker meetup and the Women in Tech meetup. Returning from 2019, we received a ton of positive feedback about the empowerment lounge. We’re so happy to have made an impact with hackers at our event, and can’t wait to bring this space back. Our team is dedicated to creating a comfortable space to help people feel welcome and meet others like them.
We hope you enjoyed this brief look into the history of Pride and some groups we feel are doing amazing things for queer people in tech. As we get closer to this year’s Hack the North, please stay tuned for more info about how we plan to support members of 2SLGBTQ+ communities in tech. Thanks so much for reading to the end, and Happy Pride! 🏳️🌈
- Team Hack the North 💙⚙️
Special thank you Jenny C., Elaine C., Sara L., Winnie S., Joseph W., Rachel X., and Jessica Z. for helping proofread and edit this post!