Inspiring Female Engineers Are Challenging Stereotypes through Social Media Movement

A hashtag challenging gender and racial stereotypes in the tech industry took off on Twitter and Instagram yesterday, with hundreds of women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community sharing photos of themselves along with the hashtag #iLookLikeAnEngineer in order to redefine what an engineer should look like.

The viral movement arose thanks to engineer Isis Wenger and a personal essay she published on Medium. In her post, Wenger highlights some examples of the systemic sexism she's had to face as a woman in the tech industry, which is dominated by white or Asian males: “I've had men throw dollar bills at me in a professional office (by an employee who works at that company, during work hours). . . I've had an engineer on salary at a bootcamp message me to explicitly ‘be friends with benefits' while I was in the interview process at the school he worked for.” These biases in the industry surfaced again when she agreed to feature in a recruitment ad for her company OneLogin, leading to many online commenters questioning her appearance, her representation of engineers, and whether or not her presence in the ad markets specifically towards women.

“This is literally just ME, an example of ONE engineer at OneLogin. The ad is supposed to be authentic. My words, my face, and as far as I am concerned it is,” says Wenger, who feels uncomfortable with the attention that the ad has generated. Speaking of the industry as a whole, she writes, “This industry's culture fosters an unconscious lack of sensitivity towards those who do not fit a certain mold. I'm sure that every other women [sic] and non-male identifying person in this field has a long list of mild to extreme personal offenses that they've just had to tolerate. I'm not trying to get anyone in trouble, fired or ruin anyone's life. I just want to make it clear that we are all humans, and there are certain patterns of behavior that no one should have to tolerate while in a professional environment.”

Wenger concludes her essay with a call to action: “Do you feel passionately about helping spread awareness about tech gender diversity? Do you not fit the ‘cookie-cutter mold' of what people believe engineers ‘should look like?' If you answered yes to any of these questions, I invite you to help spread the word and help us redefine ‘what an engineer should look like.' #iLookLikeAnEngineer”

The enthusiastic response to Wenger's hashtag has been both inspiring and eye-opening, proving that engineers are a diverse group that can't be reduced to one representative image. To see more examples, check out, a live feed of all Twitter and Instagram posts tagged with #iLookLikeAnEngineer, and keep an eye on, a platform Wenger is building to share people's stories about diversity in tech.

Above photo source: Isis Wenger / Medium

@daraoke: “I worked as an engineer at @Intel + @Twitter, now I build features for Windows at @Microsoft #ILookLikeAnEngineer”

@annimaniac: “I defended my PhD in math modeling at Stanford 6 weeks postpartum, 1 year after co-founding FG #ILookLikeAnEngineer”

@batalia: “Self-taught iOS dev, got a dev degree (1st in class), spoke @ WWDC & more, co-founded @tutulab #iLookLikeAnEngineer”

@kthomas901: “I'm an iOS Engineer, creator of @WeReadTooApp. #ILookLikeAnEngineer”

@maggit: “BS in Applied Mathematics, 9+ years full stack/mobile developer, cofounded a company #ILookLikeAnEngineer”

@EricaJoy: “#ILookLikeAnEngineer who could use more sleep. No need to run my creds, I'll still be an eng without your validation.”

@MIT: “Just a few of the faces of @MITEngineering… Tweet yours with #ILookLikeanEngineer”

@sailorhg: “i have undergrad & grad degrees in eecs from mit & have done machine learning research on asimo #iLookLikeAnEngineer”

@kwuchu: “#ILookLikeAnEngineer Love to build with Ruby on Rails & Ember.js, currently helping build Skynet at my 9-5 job, nbd.”

@kishau: CS degree, 20+yrs full stack. Started w/ Pascal on an IBM PS/1. Prefer back-end dev & simulation #ILookLikeAnEngineer”

@ceejbot: “I run the npm registry. #ILookLikeAnEngineer”

@nkkl: “Basically, every time you input text in Windows there are a bunch of women behind it all! #ILookLikeAnEngineer”

@pam_yam: “I'm from Benin, West Africa. I'm Black. I have short hair, and I smile a LOT. #ILookLikeAnEngineer”

@annthurium: “I work on International Growth at Pinterest and my hair game is ON POINT. #ILookLikeAnEngineer”

@miss_azide: “Muslim, Malaysian/Chinese, five foot two, chemical engineering major, Tau Beta Pi member, and #ILookLikeAnEngineer”

@TessaHarmon: “#ILookLikeAnEngineer, despite often being mistaken for a marketer, designer, recruiter, or my fav–a girlfriend.”

@mtbarra: “@GM has a diverse array of talented engineers around the world and I'm honored to lead them. #ILookLikeAnEngineer”

@PaolaNotPaolo: “Proud Latina. English major -> Mobile Dev. I love hip-hop music, dog videos, and yasssing. #ILookLikeAnEngineer”

@bryanl: “I've written software to protect and break into networks. I also like math. #ILookLikeAnEngineer”

@JCHayes: “I'm female, wear pink and I'm pregnant. I'm also a full stack software engineer. #ILookLikeAnEngineer”

@lisariendeau: “I've put Java, C#, Ruby, Golang, JavaScript, & a baby into Production this year. #ILookLikeAnEngineer”

@juliaferraioli: “#ILookLikeAnEngineer because no matter how I dress, I still can code.”

via [Mashable]

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