52 years later, IBM apologizes for firing transgender woman

In August 1968, Lynn Conway, a promising computer engineer at IBM in Sunnyvale, California, was called to the office of Jean Myron Amdahl, the then director of gene computing.

When she knew she was undertaking “gender change”, Ms. Amdal supported her Written to an account, But the company’s chief executive, Thomas J. Watson Jr. was less tolerant.

On that summer day, Mr. Amdahl received serious news.

“I was fired,” Ms. Conway wrote.

Twenty-five years later, Ms. Conway was called back to speak with IBM supervisors. This time, the setting was a virtual meeting witnessed by employees from other companies.

As they saw last month Diane GersonIBM’s senior vice president of human resources told Ms. Conway that the company now “offered support and assistance in infecting employees,” making no progress to the treatment found decades ago.

Ms. Conway, 82, was then given a lifetime achievement award for her “pioneering work” in computers, a company spokesperson said.

“It was very unexpected,” Ms. Conway said in an interview, saying that she recalls shedding back tears. “It was amazing.”

For Ms. Conway’s gay and transgender scientists and friends, the apology, while late, was a validation of the work she and others in the community contributed to the field of science and technology. apologies, Reported by Forbes, Was built four months later Supreme Court ruled The person cannot be fired for being gay or transgender.

Rochelle Diamond, A scientist at the California Institute of Technology Who is a friend of Ms. Conway’s, said she learned to apologize on Friday, Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, Which honors the memory of Rita Hester, A transgender woman who was stabbed to death in 1998.

“This is important to us,” said Ms. Heera, who is also the retired president of national gay and lesbian scientists and technical professionals. “This is another reason we need to remember and remember all those people who have died because they were trans and to encourage trans people to be themselves.”

Christine Burns, who is Ms. Conway’s friend, said she never showed bitterness about the way she was fired, but the apology should be fine.

Ms. Burns said, “There is nothing that does not give a disproportionate apology for retaliation and closure” “Trans Britain: Our Journey to the Shadow”.

Ms. Conway was hired at IBM in 1964, after graduating from Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“It was a golden era in computer research, a time when fundamental breakthroughs were being made on a broad front,” he wrote.

Ms. Conway was on the verge of such success – working on the architecture team of a project focused on building a computer that would work at top speed – when she began to undergo medical treatment. In early 1968, she told an observer that she was “undertaking a gender change to solve a terrible existential situation” she had faced since childhood, she wrote.

Ms. Conway said her direct supervisors wanted her to remain in the company and come up with a plan: she would take leave from IBM, complete her transition and return as a new employee with a new identity.

But company officials were concerned, she said. Ms Conway said she later learned that IBM officials feared “scandalous publicity” if her story went out.

The company’s medical director said that employees who learned she was transgender “may have major emotional problems,” Ms. Conway wrote.

After she was fired, Ms. Conway underwent gender-confirmed surgery and began her career.

He worked at Memorex in 1971, and in 1973, he was recruited by the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, where he developed methods for computer chip design that would eventually be used by tech companies around the world.

In 1985, he became a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan. She joined a weekly canoeing group where she met her future husband, Charlie, an engineer.

Ms. Conway did not publicly state that she was transgender until 1999, when she said she learned that computer scientists were researching a project she was part of at IBM.

It was only a matter of time, he concluded, that anyone would know what had happened.

In 2000, he Created a website. Her goal, she wrote on the site, was to “illuminate and normalize issues of gender identity and gender transition processes.”

“I also wanted to tell the story of my gender change from man to woman, in my own words,” Ms. Conway wrote.

The website, rich in detail about her experiences as a computer engineer and a transgender woman, became an important source of information for transgender and others from the larger lesbian community, Ms. Diamond said.

She said of Ms. Conway’s website: “Here I am. I am a skilled trans woman. Let’s talk. How can we help each other? “

In 2005, the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals Name of Ms. Conway Engineer of the Year For her work in computers and for her public efforts.

Ms Conway said she never got angry at the people who fired her.

“To go back and blame and discredit people, there is a problem with this because it tends to divide people and create an instability,” she said. “However, you need evidence that there is serious learning and appreciation and terror about what has happened from today’s gestures.”

IBM’s transgender employees who witnessed the apology said they felt “part of something unprecedented”, said Ella Slade, IBM’s LGBT + and global leader and whose pronouns.

“Lynn made a comment at one point about IBM joining the program, it was like returning home, and it’s not hard to hear that,” he said.

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