Technology’s rainbow connection

Technology’s rainbow connection

 If it weren''t for the one naked guy, the furries with their articulated ears and the small gaggle of leather-clad members of the Society of Janus, this city''s 44th annual Pride parade in June could have been easily be mistaken for a technology conference.

Every big company in the city and Silicon Valley — Netflix, Facebook, Google, Apple — each offering its own take on gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual pride, lined up along Spear Street before joining the one-mile parade route on Market Street.

Netflix''s contingent marched carrying a blown-up poster featuring the women of "Orange Is the New Black," with the slogan "Break Out the Pride." The biotech giant Genentech''s group wore T-shirts proclaiming "Pride Is in Our Genes." Facebook''s impossibly young employees wore shirts that announced "Pride Connects Us" and branded spectators with rubber stamps that read "Like," with the familiar thumbs-up icon.

And cannily tapping into both LGBT pride and World Cup fever was Google, whose hundreds of gay and lesbian employees (internally known as Gayglers) and their allies marched beside a glittering soccer-ball float while clapping thunder sticks and wearing soccer jerseys promoting YouTube''s #ProudToPlay campaign.

Looking at the elated faces in the crowd, many stamped with that Facebook "Like," it almost seemed as if the tech industry and the gay communities in San Francisco had merged in a kind of ecstatically branded, hashtag-enabled celebration of shared ascendancy. And yet, for all these public strides, insiders say the culture has yet to fully transcend its frat-boy programmer reputation. Perhaps that is why companies like Facebook are aggressively recruiting and supporting LGBT employees and offering what Sara Sperling, its senior manager of diversity, calls "unconscious bias training."

"It''s not about telling them they''re bad," Ms Sperling, 42, said of Facebook''s two-hour training course aimed at increasing understanding of the need for diversity in the workplace. "It''s recognizing bias and what are you going to do about it?"

"We realize we have a really complex product and we need a lot of different people with different perspectives," Ms Sperling said. That partly explains the company''s effort to create a more inclusive user experience, most recently changing its drop-down menus to include 50 kinds of gender identification. (In 2012, Glaad honored Facebook with an award for efforts on behalf of LGBT users.)

Back at the parade, Tim Cook, Apple''s chief executive, described by The Wall Street Journal as "a vocal supporter of gay rights," marched with his employees and the company posted a video shortly afterward showing Mr Cook mingling and high-fiving Apple employees. Apple has long been in favor of same-sex marriage and put out a strongly worded statement of support when the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

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