IBM fired U-M professor Lynn Conway for coming out as trans in 1968. 52 years later, the company apologized

By | December 2, 2020
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Lynn Conway speaks at the 2018 Winter Commencement in Ann Arbor. (Alec Cohen/Michigan Daily)

At a public event celebrating LGBTQ+ inclusion, the International Business Machines Corporation presented Lynn Conway, professor emerita of electrical engineering and computer science, with a rare lifetime achievement award. The award accompanied IBM’s apology to Conway, which came 52 years after the company fired her for coming out as transgender. 

In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Conway said “she lived her life in stealth” after IBM. She resumed her research career at other technological companies under her new identity as a woman until she “quietly came out” as transgender by creating a website while working as a professor at U-M in 1999. 

The apology epitomized what Conway had preached in her 2018 winter commencement address at U-M that encouraged the graduating class to embrace changes and transitions as an inevitable part of their future adventures. “You’re embarking in an era of accelerating social change,” Conway said. “You’ll encounter increasingly diverse, often conflicting ways of thinking.”