The trans community in the technology industry: An agenda under construction

Angelica Ross has liked reading and computing since she was a child. She was a nerd, as she proudly defined herself in an interview. As an adult, her road was much harder than she had imagined: when she started her gender transition, she was fired, her family turned their back on her and she entered in the world of sexual exploitation.

But no obstacle was enough to stop Angelica. She learned by herself to build web sites and started to work at organizations that helped transgender people. She realized that she had to merge both worlds. That was how she founded  TransTech, a talent incubator for people from the trans community that seeks to empower them in the technology world.

“I always have believed in the value of the diversity and resilience, and just really the different skill sets that our community has. But we’ve never been able to find the right platform and find the right environment for us as a professional community. So that’s what I am doing with TransTech,” she said in an interview with the Tech Crunch site. 

There are three ways to participate in this organization: a free community membership to have access to workshops; a professional membership, that offers mentoring and labor opportunities, and a corporate one, for companies to finance and accompany transgender inclusion. It is supported, for instance, by the White House —Barack Obama received Angelica when he was the President of the US— and Human Rights Campaign.

Although the organization is Chicago-based and it has a co-working space there, it has benefits for members throughout the world. For instance, a few days ago it offered 50 scholarships for The Linux Foundation’s programs.

Also in the United States, Out in Tech gathers more than 40,000 people of the LGBTQ+ community. It works as a networking environment, with lectures given by authorities in the IT field, reading clubs and job search help for members. In that country, 7% of the technology workers are part of the collective, a proportion that is higher than that in the total workforce (5.7%), according to data from a survey conducted by Gallup last year.

In Argentina, the organization Impacto Digital partnered with Fundación Huésped in 2018 and, with the support of the United Nations Development Program, created Contratá Trans (Hire Trans), an initiative aimed at improving the conditions for employability of the collective. In addition to offering a job board, the project trains Human Resources teams at companies and offers counseling to create an environment open to diversity. Globant was among the first participants.  

Another Argentine initiative is Trans TI offers technology solutions for companies. Its team includes more than 10 trans people and the organization is training about 10 other trans persons to offer them employment opportunities. One of its members, C., is a Russian refugee that fled to Argentina, where she was homeless until she managed to move on and now is a QA specialist. Without any prior knowledge, she got a low complexity well-remunerated job and space to keep on learning.

 “For some years, this has been a highly demanded industry. Companies are part of a society that stigmatizes. We have the chance to ‘make’ them be more inclusive,” says Daniel Coletti, co-founder of Trans TI.

Hay Compared to other sectors in the working world, different factors in the technology industry make it look as an opportunity for trans people. On the one hand, it has always been characterized by having a progressive and disruptive view; the increasingly more modern hackers and devices are examples of that. On the other hand, the members of this community have seen the possibility of entering into this well-remunerated market without having to finish formal education.

“In the IT industry we may use our skills overcoming the barriers we face in the access to studies, many times because the system rejected us. It is an strategic position: We may get training for these sectors and, thus, the disadvantages that we faced throughout our lives do not have a negative impact at the time of getting a job,” states Josefina Lucía, the president of the cooperative Alternativa Laboral Trans (Trans Labor Alternative), a technology agency which reports in its web site that only 18% of the trans population in Argentina has access to a formal job. “Diversity is a comparative advantage. With a one-way view of the world, you will have a poor image of the people you seek to reach, but if you think from the perspective of different ethnic origins and genders, your product will be more complex and friendly for everyone,” she further affirms.

The technology industry understands the value of diversity and it is by its nature open to change. In a world where the trans community has been historically underrepresented, this may be a great opportunity to overcome barriers faster than in other sectors. And it is already happening.

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