#UNIT | The Global Tech & Science Conference is the biggest event in Europe, which concentrates on discussing visibility, diversity and inclusivity for LGBT+ people in tech and science.
They have 60 inspiring speakers who will share their personal stories of being LGBT+ people in tech and science, and through discussions and workshops they want to figure out new ways to improve the situation of LGBT+ visibility in those industries.
Gay Times caught up with the founder of #UNIT, Stuart Cameron, to talk about LGBT+ visibility in the workplace, and how technology has and will continue to help the LGBT+ community.
Why is it crucial to promote visibility, diversity and inclusivity for LGBT+ people in tech and science industries?
“To me, the most important issue is that LGBT+ people don’t have the same career chances as straight people do. Because of insufficient company support or the lack of out LGBT+ role models in companies, many LGBT+ people hide their true identities at work. More than 50% of LGBT+ people are not out at their workplace – that’s what most of the studies say. And the main reason: no-one wants to put their job security or opportunity for advancement at risk.
“Another pressing problem is that the tech and science industries are still struggling with diversity. The latest diversity reports showed that major tech companies were still predominantly male and white and they didn’t even try to find out more about their employees’ sexual orientation and gender identity. Only a few companies like Facebook started to include LGBT+ in their diversity reports. And surprisingly, more than 7% identify as LGBT+. Which is a plausible number, especially when you compare it to the numbers from the latest EU survey, where 6% of Europeans identify themselves as LGBT+.”
What is the key policy or practice that needs urgent attention when it comes to LGBT+ people in the tech industry?
“I believe that we need to see more out LGBT+ role models in high positions who are well respected, like Tim Cook (CEO of Apple), Megan Smith (former 3rd U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Assistant to the President) or Jon ‘Maddog’ Hall (Chairman of the Board of Linux Professional Institute).
“When you are a young developer in a tech company and you see that a few executives are openly gay and there is no problem with it, that will encourage you to be open as well. You have to see it happen first before you can truly believe it.
“The companies must start investing in LGBT+ people, especially supporting those who have the will and fit to become leaders. And they have to start allocating budgets to the companies LGBT+ groups. Just participating in a pride festival once a year is not enough. We are LGBT+ every day, not just during one month in summer.”
What is the single most important impact technology has had on the LGBT+ community in the past five years?
“The feeling that you are not alone anymore and the understanding that there are many of us, we can talk to each other and we can organise ourselves. When I was 16 years old I thought I was literally the only gay boy in the village. Ask a 16-year-old now in the countryside and he will tell you all the gay people in the neighbourhood trough location based dating apps like Grindr, PlanetRomeo, Hornet etc. And he/she/they can show you all the gay people around the world through social media.
“There was no time before when it was that easy to meet other LGBT+ people. The rise of social media such as Instagram, Snapchat, Youtube and Facebook has helped LGBT+ a lot to reduce the experience of feeling alone, finding partners regardless where they live, and showing their true identity and struggles.”
How can technology be used to empower LGBT+ people in the future?
“Technology can help to advance our LGBT+ rights, bring visibility to our issues as well as build awareness. However, technology has its pitfalls and we, as the LGBT+ community, need to teach ourselves about digital security. Technology has destroyed gay spaces in certain areas, but they helped others to flourish. We believe in the power of technology, the power to change our surroundings and to make our lives better.”
How can technology be used to educate people about LGBT+ issues going forward?
“Social media and online education tools in particular help to build awareness about LGBT+ issues across the globe. Thousands of videos are shared and discussed. In some places, those videos are still causing a lot of hate speech from ultra-conservatives as well as narrow-minded people. Nevertheless, they still do their job: building visibility about LGBT+.
“We believe that emergence of new technology like artificial intelligence and virtual reality, will bring even more new creative opportunities which will educate people and will fight hatred and prejudice.”
Who is Stuart Cameron?
Stuart B. Cameron is the founder of #UNIT | The Global Tech & Science Conference and the CEO of Uhlala. Since 2009 Stuart and his team have been supporting, promoting and connecting LGBT+ in their careers, bringing them together with companies and organizations who are appreciating LGBT+ employees. They pursuing this approach with different projects like STICKS & STONES – the largest LGBT+ career event in Europe, UNICORNS IN TECH – The Global Tech Community for LGBTI and Straight Allies or RAHM – The LGBT+ Leadership Contest. Learn more about Uhlala: www.uhlala.com.