How Turing is Supporting the LGBTQIA+ Tech Community

How do DEI initiatives designed to include LGBTQIA+ individuals in tech benefit everyone? We’re finding out each day through Turing’s Gear Up program.

How Turing is Supporting the LGBTQIA+ Tech Community

Hello, Turing World! I’m Anne Wolf, the new lead of Turing’s Gear Up program. I’m a queer, Black/bi-racial equity and inclusion practitioner with about 15 years of experience in the DEI space. I have felt extremely welcome and well-supported at Turing already and I’m really excited for the future of Gear Up! I wanted to tell you a little bit more about who I am, what Gear Up does, and how this program serves Turing’s diverse community.

The Turing mission is to unlock human potential by training a diverse student body to succeed in high-fulfillment technical careers. To that end, we not only offer diversity scholarships for students with intersectional identities, but also supportive communities like Gear Up, the Joan Clarke Society and the Queer Qoders for students who haven’t always felt welcome in the tech industry. From outset, Gear Up has been part of the Turing experience, designed to promote equity and inclusion for students who are under-represented in the tech industry, including LGBTQIA+ code students.

How Represented Are LGBTQIA+ Workers in the Tech Industry?

Like BIPOC, women in STEM, disabled workers and members of other marginalized communities, LGBTQIA+ individuals are underrepresented in the tech industry. Just how underrepresented is hard to determine, however.

The data on LGBTQIA+ STEM workers is scarce for a number of reasons. For one, it’s far more common for researchers to include questions about race and gender in their surveys than sexual identity. Even outside the realm of research, sexual identity isn’t always as visible as race or gender—or as likely to come up at the office without disclosure. For another, LGBTQIA+ identities often intersect with those more commonly reported on by researchers like race and gender.

That said, what research has been done indicates that LGBTQIA+ individuals are more likely to report experiences of exclusion and discrimination in the industry. A 2021 study published in Science Advances found that LGBTQIA+ professionals were more likely to face career challenges like professional devaluation or workplace harassment than their straight and cisgender peers.

How the Tech Community Can Support the LGBTQIA+ Community During Pride Month and Throughout the Year

For this reason, Turing has taken intentional steps to model inclusion in our practices to set our students up for success not only during Pride Month or their time in code school, but also in their long-term web development careers. Three elements of this initiative include:

  • Respect for one anothers’ pronouns. It’s standard practice at Turing to automatically share our pronouns, whether those pronouns reflect a cisgender or non-binary identity. Gender happens on a spectrum and we honor everyone’s right to choose where they exist on that spectrum at any given time in their life. By using pronouns routinely and normalizing the practice, we can help people of all gender identities feel more comfortable.
  • Recognition that identity influences who we are and how we experience the world, but does not determine one’s personality, preferences or professional presentation. Two people may identify as “gay,” “trans,” or “asexual,” but have very little else in common. We support students and staff in seeing one another as complex humans defined by far more than sexual attraction, gender presentation or participation in the LGBTQIA+ culture and community.
  • Repetition which honors the reality that, like sexual and gender identity, Pride isn’t limited to one month a year. LGBTQIA+ individuals deserve recognition and respect at all times.

One facet of these initiatives is, of course, to create a safe and supportive learning environment for students while they are at Turing. We love to see the results of that inclusivity at events like Demo Comp, where many of our student teams develop work that reflects their identities and serves the communities dearest to them. But these steps also model how tech professionals can establish more equitable, less discriminatory workplaces as they progress through their careers.

We also acknowledge, however, that Turing’s diversity and inclusion initiatives are a work in progress. There is always room to improve the model we set for the change we want to see in the tech industry.

How Does Gear Up Help LGBTQIA+ Parity in Tech?

Some of the feedback we received about earlier iterations of the Gear Up program gave us room to grow. Part of my role as the new Gear Up program leader is to create a safe space for some of the challenging conversations about transformation and change that DEI initiatives can inspire. Self-reflection isn’t always easy, especially in today’s cultural and political climate.

Centering the experiences of vulnerability and marginalization that many LGBTQIA+ people endure can make some feel defensive about their own identities and privilege. That reaction isn’t limited to Turing, either. As a resident of Florida, I bear witness every day to the backlash against advances made by the gay and trans rights movements in recent decades. But my own intersectional identity and decade-and-a-half experience in DEI also help me see a path forward.

How Do DEI Initiatives Benefit People of All Identities?

Our goal is for everyone at Turing to feel included, and to find new ways to frame our diversity initiatives that call our students in, not out. After all, progressive policies are intended to make life easier for everyone. Curb cuts, for example, benefit people who use mobility devices like wheelchairs, rollators and canes. But they also help people who use strollers, rolling suitcases and bicycles. DEI initiatives that extend beyond infrastructure can function similarly. Inclusivity is for everyone, not just members of queer, trans, disabled and/or BIPOC demographics.

Our goal with Gear Up is to highlight how weaving DEI into our everyday processes of learning and growth can help us all show up to our careers as our full, authentic selves. Making equitable communities isn’t as simple as establishing best practices or a codifiable set of rules—it’s about learning from our lived experiences each day. For example, we can change how we think about pronoun normalization. Instead of seeing it as something for a small group of trans and non-binary individuals, we can consider pronoun use as a way to make social interactions more comfortable for everyone.

When members of the Turing community—whether straight or queer, cis or non-binary—bring these practices and perspectives to their future workplaces it will inevitably foster change. One goal of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives is, yes, to help move the tech industry from predominantly white and male to a paradigm more reflective of the population at large. But DEI is also about creating an environment that benefits everyone, regardless of how they identify.

I am so happy to be a part of the Turing community. I can’t wait to work together to evolve Gear Up in ways that benefit all members of our community—and empower members of the LGBTQIA+ community and those of other intersectional identities to show up fully in Turing, in tech and in the world at large. We truly are better together.

Getting ready for your own job search in the tech sector? Sign up for a try coding class today. Check out these additional tips and tricks from a Turing alum.