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Women in STEM - Lynn Conway

Lynn Conway has been a pioneer in the field of electrical engineering and computer science for many decades, and her trans-activism has been an inspiration for so many other folks in STEM.

Born in White Plains, NY in 1938, Lynn Conway began experiencing gender dysphoria at a very young age. Excelling at both Math and Science, Lynn went to MIT in 1955, but she eventually left due to a failed attempt at transitioning and the struggle with her mental health that followed. Lynn went on to work as an electronics technician as she continued her education at Columbia University, where she earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the School of Engineering and Applied Science in 1963.

In 1964, Lynn began working at IBM, where she made foundational contributions to computer architecture. Unfortunately, IBM fired Lynn when she decided again to attempt transition in 1968. Not letting that set her back, Lynn successfully transitioned and went to work for a number of other high-profile organizations including Memorex, Xerox, and eventually DARPA, where she was the key architect of a Defense Department Strategic Computing Initiative.

In 1985, Lynn became a professor of electronics engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan, and she retired from that position in 1998. Since then, Lynn has continued to consult and work on many projects, and has been the recipient of so many awards for her accomplishments in microelectronics and chip design, as well as her pioneering activism in the trans-rights movement.

It should be noted, IBM ended up issuing Lynn a formal apology for their act of discrimination in 2020, over 50 years later.

If you’d like to learn more about Lynn and her incredible journey, please check out her Wikipedia Page:

And you can also watch this video of Lynn being given the 2009 IEEE Society Computer Pioneer Award:

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