Tag: pioneer

IBM finally apologises for firing transgender computer pioneer 52 years ago

IBM, Lynn Conway

Lynn Conway was fired by IBM in 1968 as she began her transition (Screenshot: YouTube)

It’s taken 52 years, but IBM has finally issued a full apology for firing the pioneering computer scientist Lynn Conway because she was transgender.

In 1964 Lynn Conway joined IBM Research, where she made major innovations in Very Large Scale Integrated (VLSI) chip systems. She is credited with several key discoveries that would go on to power smartphones, the internet, and national defence.

Despite her many foundational contributions to computer architecture, she lost it all in 1968 when IBM’s medical director outed her to the CEO, who fired her on the spot.

Conway struggled to support her family as a result, and the situation worsened when California’s Social Services threatened a restraining order if she attempted to see her children post-divorce.

But it wasn’t the end. Conway overcame the adversity IBM threw at her and worked as a computer architect at Memorex Corporation before moving to Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre. In the 70s and 80s she pioneered new VLSI technology that now underpins current microprocessor chip design.

Later in 1985, the University of Michigan hired her as a professor of computer science and electrical engineering and associate dean of its engineering school. She eventually retired in 1998 with the honorary title of professor emerita.

Now an 82-year-old trans activist, Conway has finally got the vindication she deserves after IBM apologised for its actions, having avoided the issue for decades.

“We deeply regret the hardship Lynn encountered,” the business giant told Forbes, admitting full responsibility for Conway’s firing all those years ago.

IMB agreed a formal resolution with Conway, and in early October the company emailed its employees an invitation to attend a virtual event titled “Tech Trailblazer and Transgender Pioneer Lynn Conway in conversation with Diane Gherson”, IBM’s senior vice president of human resources.

The event began with a heartfelt apology for Conway’s mistreatment, in front of 1,200 people.

“Diane delivered the apology with such grace, sincerity, and humility. Lynn was visibly moved,” said Anna Nguyen, a software engineer who attended the session. “I struggled to hold back tears.”

Conway was also awarded the rare IBM Lifetime Achievement Award, given to individuals who have changed the world through technology inventions.

But it pales in comparison to the long-awaited apology, which finally gave Conway closure to an event that shaped her life.

Beloved LGBTQ+ pioneer, Phyllis Lyon, dies of natural causes at 95 – Lesbian.com

Beloved LGBTQ+ pioneer, Phyllis Lyon, dies of natural causes at

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon
Phyllis Lyon dedicated her life to LGBTQ+ equality and rights. She died today of natural causes at the age of 95.

She and her partner Del Martin (who passed away in 2008) met in the 1950s. In partnership, this indomitable pair fought for same-sex marriage. Lyon and Martin were the first couple married in California in 2008. Now-Governor Gavin Newsom officiated their wedding.

Gov. Newsom paid tribute on Twitter, posting “Phyllis and Del were the manifestation of love and devotion. Yet for over 50 years they were denied the right to say 2 extraordinary words: I do. / Phyllis—it was the honor of a lifetime to marry you & Del. Your courage changed the course of history./ Rest in Peace my dear friend.”

Kate Kendall, activist and former executive director of the National Center from Lesbian Rights, tweeted, “She and Del are dancing again.”

Tags: Phyllis Lyon

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