In honor of Pride Month in June, we wanted to share the stories of some female LGBTQ+ innovators who made and are making history in STEM fields.
️ Sally Ride
Sally Ride was an American astronaut and physicist, the first American woman in space and the third woman in space overall. She was also the earliest space traveler to be recognized as LGBTQ+. After retiring as an astronaut she became an educator at the University of California to inspire more women to enter science and math fields. As part of this initiative, she and her partner founded MoonKam, which allowed middle school students to take photos from the International Space Station. Ride also wrote several children’s books to nurture young people’s interest in science. Learn more about Sally Ride.
️ Polly Arnold
Polly Arnold is a Professor of Chemistry at UC Berkeley and the Chemical Sciences Division Director at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Her work focuses on the reactions of rare earths and actinides, to both help exploit these elements for quantum mechanics and guide better stewardship of nuclear waste. In 2012, Arnold was awarded the Rosalind Franklin Prize for her achievements as a female scientist. She used the prize money to produce a documentary film, “A Chemical Imbalance,” about the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields and particularly the sciences. Learn more about Polly Arnold.
️ Mary Gray
Mary L. Gray is Senior Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and maintains a faculty position at IU Luddy School of Informatics in addition to serving as a Faculty Associate at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. Dr. Gray is an anthropologist by training with a PhD in Communication, focusing her work on how everyday use of technology transforms our labor, rights, and identities. Her books “In Your Face” and “Out In The Country” focus on how queer youth in rural Appalachia use media and technology to define identity and community. Learn more about Mary L. Gray.
️ Ann Mei Chang
Ann Mei Chang is a technology expert, global development advocate, author, and public speaker. Today, she is the CEO of Candid, a non-profit that provides data about the movement of money in the social sector. She spent 20 years working as an executive and leader at tech startups and companies including Apple, Intuit, and Google. From there she migrated to the public sector, serving as the Chief Innovation Officer at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Mercy Corps, and Pete for America, as well as the first Executive Director of the US Global Development Lab. She has dedicated her career to helping tech companies innovate toward more inclusion and social good. Learn more about Ann Mei Chang.
️ Lynn Conway
Lynn Conway is a famed computer engineer. For many decades, Conway’s achievements went uncelebrated as she faced stigmatization and pressure to conduct her career in “stealth mode” as a transgender woman. She was fired by IBM in 1968 for affirming her gender identity, though the company did not stop leveraging her innovations. Conway started her career over again as a programmer and within a decade was again pioneering the next wave of innovation in VSLI microchip design. She has used her prestige and courage to advance transgender inclusion and break down stigmas. Learn more about Lynn Conway.
️ Elena Rodriguez-Falcon
Elena Rodriguez-Falcon is a mechanical engineer with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and industrial management. To complete her master’s, she moved from her native Mexico to the United Kingdom where she later became a professor and Director of Women in Engineering at the University of Sheffield. Today she is President and CEO of the New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering, as well as principal fellow at the Higher Education Academy and fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. She is an influential voice of advocacy in the LGBTQ+ community, especially challenging the heteronormativity which is prevalent in engineering. Learn more about Elena Rodriguez-Falcon.
️ Emily Riehl
Emily Riehl is an associate professor of mathematics at Johns Hopkins University. She has done deep and foundational work in category theory and homotopy theory, both studies in the way different mathematical or geometric objects relate to one another. In 2022 she was named a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society, among other honors and awards throughout her career. Riehl is a host of the n-Category Café blog on subjects related to category theory in mathematics, physics, and philosophy. She is also a founding board member of the LGBTQ+ mathematical association Spectra. Learn more about Emily Riehl.
️ Antonia J. Jones
Antonia J. Jones lost the use of her legs to polio at age 10 but overcame that barrier to achieve groundbreaking innovation in mathematics and computer science. Dr. Jones started her career as an expert in number theory, gradually becoming more interested in computer science during the 1970s. During her life she published more than 70 papers and books on topics including game theory, neural learning, and artificial intelligence. Her most renowned innovation was the creation of the Gamma Test (aka Near Neighbor Test), which is still used today to simplify and streamline the construction of data models and neural networks. Learn more about Antonia J. Jones.
This list represents just a small number of the LGBTQ individuals who have transformed STEM fields. Icons such as Alan Turing, Tim Cook, Jack Andraka, Adam Frew, and Adam Hart are just some of the male allies you should consider looking up!
Who do you think we should feature for LGBTQ+ STEM day on November 18? If you would be interested in sharing your own story, let us know!