These LGBTQ Women In STEM Are Shattering The Glass Ceiling

From scorpions to cancer research, these women are changing the world and their fields.

The gender divide in STEM has been a hot topic for years, with many voicing complaints that these fields are vastly male-dominated. In addition to the difficulties of being a woman in STEM, LGBTQ people face heavy discrimination in the world of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We’re long overdue to give a round of applause to all lesbian, bisexual, and otherwise non-heterosexual women smashing the glass ceiling and making major contributions to STEM worldwide. 

Whether it’s calculating Pi to a record-breaking number, educating the public about the latest in cancer research, or creating popular websites, the women below all have drool-worthy resumes that’ll make even the most avid overachiever feel just a little inadequate. Their accomplishments are all the more impressive when you realize the difficulties they faced simply due to their gender and sexuality.  So many of these women have fought back against discrimination, aligning themselves with organizations meant to increase LGBTQ visibility in STEM. So, prepare to be dazzled by the groundbreaking achievements of the LGBTQ women in STEM below. 

Megan Smith


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President Barack Obama chose Megan Smith as the first ever female Chief Technology Officer to the United States in 2014. It’s not hard to see why, considering Smith spent her career racking up some seriously impressive accomplishments before receiving the honor. Smith jumped right into the world of tech after getting a degree in mechanical engineering at MIT. She worked at General Magic, Inc., where she helped develop one of the first prototypes for a smartphone touch screen. She moved on to Google, where she spent nine years as the vice president of New Business Developing and helped the company secure Google Earth and Google Maps. This really only scratches the surface of her accomplishments, which include a great deal of support for the LGBTQ community. From working at media companies that raise awareness of LGBTQ issues to speaking at conventions about the importance of LGBTQ representation in tech, Smith has been and continues to be a pioneer in her field.

Emma Haruka Iwao 


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Google developer Emma Haruka Iwao made headlines in March of 2019 for calculating Pi to 31 trillion digits, smashing the previous record of 22 trillion. Coincidentally, she broke the record on March 14, AKA “Pi Day.” Iwao was excited about her victory, particularly because she felt it would increase visibility in her field. Calling herself an “openly queer woman,” Iwao expressed hope her acheivments would inspire others under the LGBTQ umbrella to excel in their chosen professions.

Gina Trapani 


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In 2005, Gina Trapani began casually blogging about various tips and tricks she’d accrued over the years to make life’s hassles just a little bit easier. The title? Lifehacker. Sound familiar? Suffice to say, this one-woman blog has grown considerably over the years, now a hugely successful online media empire. Since bidding Lifehacker farewell in 2009, Trapani’s worked at various websites, published multiple books, and snagged a spot on Fast Company’s “Most Influential Women in Technology” two years in a row. As for her personal life, she married her wife in 2008 and the pair welcomed a daughter in 2012. 

Lauren Esposito 

Lauren Esposito was more or less born an entomologist. From a young age, she scoured her family’s backyard examining insects. She spent her summers visiting her grandparents in the Bahamas, fascinated by the scorpions that crawled around outdoors. In adulthood, she turned her fascination into a profession. After procuring a Ph.D. from the City University of New York, she’s since become one of the world’s most renowned scorpion experts. In addition to discovering three new species of the insect, she’s done extensive studies on the possibility of using scorpion venom for cancer research. She loves scorpions so much; in fact, she’s been known to keep one or two as a pet. In addition to her contributions to the world of scorpions, she’s been an advocate for the LGBTQ community. She openly identifies as queer and is one of the founding members of 500 Queer Scientists, a networking group for LGBTQ scientists across the globe. 

Lisa Graumlich

The Dean of the College of the Environment at the University of Washington, Lisa Graumlich testified before Congress in 2010 about the dangers of climate change. Much of her career has revolved around advocating for the environment and raising awareness of how human activity is adversely affecting our planet. She’s had a major influence on tree ring data, a method of studying changes in tree rings over time to measure fluctuations in the earth’s temperature. Despite her impressive accolades, she’s faced career setbacks due to her sexuality, often discouraged from being openly gay in academia. As a result, Graumlich has been outspoken about the need for diversity publicly for years, opening up in a variety of interviews about the discrimination she’s faced as well as all LGBTQ women in STEM.

Leanne Pittsford


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Leanne Pittsford founded Lesbians Who Tech, an organization aimed to create more networking opportunities for queer women in STEM, shortly after finishing college It took off quickly and, before long, Pittsford became a prominent advocate for LGBTQ women in her field and beyond. She even organized an LGBTQ Tech Summit at the White House in 2016. In addition to being a voice in tech, Pittsford does not shy away from politics. She campaigned for Hillary Clinton in 2016, joining the tech industry group Nerdz4Hillary to voice her support.

Ann Mei Chang 


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Ann Mei Chang has an enviable resume, having worked everywhere from Google to Apple to even the U.S. State Department in various high-profile engineering roles. She’s also a visible LGBTQ figure in the tech community, something she claims has been an asset rather than a hindrance in her field. Chang has always, by her own accord, been very involved with her LGBTQ colleagues, allowing her to have a bigger than average network. Working alongside her LGBTQ allies, she continues to push to close the gender and sexuality gap in STEM. 

Carolyn Bertozzi 


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A chemist at Stanford, Carolyn Bertozzi has been an advocate for open access to information, especially scientific studies. She was a founding member of the American Cancer Society’s peer-reviewed journal that’s available online for free to all readers. In addition to getting valuable information out to the public, Bertozzi has offered professional guidance to various start-ups that research potential cancer treatments. In her personal life, she is an out lesbian and even won the GLB Scientist of the Year Award from the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals in 2007.

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