The 31 Most Important LGBT People In Tech

In a perfect world, it really shouldn’t matter what sexual orientation successful people are.

But given that young LGBT people throughout the world still experience bullying at school, we think it’s important to highlight some of the brightest LGBT talents in the tech industry.

“The general idea of corporate America taking on gay issues — with tech companies being out in front — has had an important influence on public opinion,” law professor Gary Gates of the University of California at Los Angeles, one of the country’s top scholars on gay rights and demography, told Politico earlier this year. “They have been first movers on anti-discrimination, on relationship recognition and now on most of the transgender issues.”

Companies like Twitter, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and IBM all have adopted LGBT benefits. Google, for example, has provided LGBT partner benefits since 2010. Twitter also has similar anti-discrimination policies in place and domestic-partner benefits in place since the very beginning.

31. Chuck Osborn

Chuck Osborn is a long-time gaming expert who recently became the new managing editor at IGN, a leading online media publication focused on gaming.

Prior to joining IGN, Osborn wrote for publications like PCXL, PC Gamer, and NVISION.

30. Kane Sarhan

Last year, Kane Sarhan teamed up with Shaila Ittycheria to launch Enstitute, an on-the-job alternative to attending college.

Enstitute helps place aspiring entrepreneurs in apprenticeship-like programs. It recently expanded to Washington and opened up an online application platform to help people pursue opportunities in business, technology, design, and entrepreneurship.

Enstitute places it students at startups like Thrillist, Tracks, and Bitly. Halfway through its pilot program last year, 70% of students received preliminary full-time offers for permanent jobs.

Prior to co-founding Enstitute, Sarhan worked as the creative director at hot New York-based startup LocalResponse.

29. Christy Gaughan

Genentech is one of the most innovative biotech companies out there, and a lot of that is thanks to Christy Gaughan, its associate director of BioOncology marketing science.

Gaughan also serves as Genentech's LGBT employee group co-chair.

27. Tom Rielly

As the TED Conference's community director, Tom Rielly heads up the fellows program, which sponsors 50 people from tech, science, arts, and business every year. He was previously the founder and CEO of PlanetOut.

26. Cathy Brooks

Cathy Brooks, a lesbian activist, previously worked at Seesmic and founded a digital marketing firm. She also hosts a podcast about tech/society. But Brooks dropped her career to pursue her passion for dogs back in February. She opened up a private dog park and training academy for dogs in Las Vegas and founded The Hydrant Club, a place for cool canines to 'romp and learn.'

23. Ron Shuman

Ron Shuman joined Tesla, one of the most innovative companies of our time, back in November to head up its HR department where he is responsible for things like recruiting and employee retention.

22. Ray Everett-Church

As director of advertising and privacy at Yahoo, Ray Everett-Church provides privacy policy guidance for the tech company's ad-related businesses. He makes sure Yahoo's privacy promises hold up and if they don't, he'll make product changes.

21. David Lerman

David Lerman is the COO and co-founder of Say Media, the company behind ReadWrite, Reodelista, Dogster, xoJane, and other media publications.

In his role, Lerman oversees all things product strategy and works closely with the product teams. He previously co-founded production company MediaLiquid.

20. Ina Fried

Ina Fried, an award-winning journalist currently for AllThingsD, has covered the tech industry since 2000. She's held positions at CNET, where she covered Microsoft and Apple. At AllThingsD, Fried is in charge of the mobile beat.

19. Lisa Brummel

Lisa Brummel has been with Microsoft ever since she graduated from college in 1989. Brummel has held a variety of positions at the tech giant, but has since become the executive vice president of human resources. Brummel is the one who informed employees that Microsoft would axe its controversial stack-ranking system -- a system that hurt morale by turning teammates into competitors.

18. Owen Thomas

Owen Thomas, the current editor-in-chief of ReadWrite, is the epitome of a Silicon Valley insider. In his career covering technology, He first got his start in the tech industry

In his spare time, Thomas enjoys going to the gym, spending time with his husband, and walking their very adorable Ramona the Love Terrier.

Disclosure: I used to work with Owen during his time at Business Insider.

16. Darren Spedale

Darren Spedale is the founder of FamilyByDesign and StartOut, a national non profit dedicated to fueling LGBT entrepreneurship. Back in 2010, Spedale rang the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange on behalf of StartOut. To date, StartOut has a network of over 5,200 participants.

15. Darrell Silver

Darrell Silver, an entrepreneur whose first company Perpetually sold to Dell, is back with a new startup called Thinkful.

Thinkful is an online school that offers one-on-one education in the programming language Python and front-end Web development.

Thinkful is part of a new generation of productivity tools, Microsoft former President of Windows Steven Sinofsky recently said.

14. Jason Goldberg

Fab CEO Jason Goldberg is a force to be reckoned with in the startup industry. Fab has been roiled by pivots and layoffs this year, but Goldberg still raised $US165 million in new funding. Fab is Goldberg's third startup, the previous two being Socialmedian and Jobster.

13. Nick Denton

Nick Denton is the mastermind behind Gawker Media, the online publishing network behind sites like Valleywag, Deadspin, Jezebel, Kinja, and Lifehacker.

12. Sara Sperling

Thanks to Sara Sperling, Facebook employees have been playing a part in the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade since 2011. As head of diversity, Sperling makes sure Facebook is an inclusive place for all different types of people.

Sperling first came out in college, while studying at the University of California Irvine. She joined Facebook in 2010.

11. Chris Hughes

Chris Hughes, at right.

Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder, left the social network to join the Obama campaign in 2007. He later purchased The New Republic and serves as its 'Editor in Chief.'

Hughes was also one of the first people to use the same-sex marriage icon on Facebook after marrying his partner, Sean Elridge, back in July.

8. Jeff Ragovin

A few years after starting Buddy Media with Mike and Kass Lazerow, the company sold to enterprise industry giant Salesforce. Today, Ragovin is chief strategic officer of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, where he's in charge of the company's social marketing solutions.

Ragovin is also involved with StartOut, a nonprofit organisation to fuel LGBT entrepreneurship.

7. Joel Simkahi

Joel Simkahi is the brains behind one of the hottest dating apps for gay men, Grindr. Back in October, Grindr released a revamped version of its popular dating app.

Grindr first gained popularity in 2009. To date, Grindr has been downloaded over 7 million times.

6. Edith Windsor

Edith Windsor, a former IBM engineer, became an unlikely activist in the gay rights movement. Back in 2010, Windsor sued the government for a $US363,053 refund of the estate taxes she had to pay when her spouse passed away. The Supreme Court ultimately decided in her favour, marking the first the U.S. recognised marriage between partners of the same sex.

5. Dana McCallum

Dana McCallum, a senior engineer at Twitter, is one of the geniuses behind Twitter. As a transgender woman, McCallum has previously said that she finds Twitter a great place to work when it comes to being LGBT-friendly.

Fun facts: McCallum plays the bass and is a licensed commercial pilot.

4. Peter Thiel

Peter Thiel, famous for being Facebook's first investor and the co-founder and former CEO of PayPal, is the brains behind the Thiel Foundation. As part of the two-year fellowship, 20 teenagers receive $US100,000 to drop out of college and start a company.

As both a VC and entrepreneur, Thiel has been involved with companies like Palantir Technologies, Founders Fund, and Facebook, where Thiel was the social network's first outside investor and director.

Thiel is also the founder and president of Clarium Capital.

1. Tim Cook

Apple CEO Tim Cook is the most powerful gay man in technology. Even though he is a notoriously private guy, Cook recently spoke out about gay rights and discrimination.

'Now is the time to write these basic principles of human dignity into the book of law,' Cook said in his acceptance speech for a lifetime achievement award from Auburn University.

Back in November, Cook wrote an open letter in The Wall Street Journal encouraging Congress to pass a law that would provide equal rights to gay and lesbian employees.

Since taking charge of Apple in 2011, Cook has led Apple through significant product upgrades like the iPhone 5S, iPad Air, and iOS 7.

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