When platform engineer Isis Wenger posed in a photo as part of a recruiting campaign for OneLogin, the enterprise software company where she works, she did not anticipate the image being criticized as an example of gender inequality in her industry. Yet several Facebook commenters viewed the poster, which was placed around San Francisco's train stations and features Wenger in a OneLogin shirt with the quote "My team is great. Everyone is smart, creative and hilarious," as a sexualized image to appeal to male engineers. As is often the case, the backlash against the campaign's supposed sexism was sexist in of itself. To combat the true issue with the posters — people's reaction to them — Wenger started the hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer. She explains her motives in a Medium post,
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.”
Yet Facebook comments on the photo included "I think they want to appeal to women, but are probably just appealing to dudes" and "If their intention is to attract more women then it would have been a better to choose a picture with a warm, friendly smile rather than a sexy smirk." Knowing how awkward office photoshoots can be, Wenger was probably just trying to get the photo over with and look presentable, not worry about whether she had a "warm, friendly smile" or a "sexy smirk." Unfortunately, women's appearances are scrutinized to the point that even the wrong kind of smile can get us in trouble and just one photo is expected to represent our entire gender.
"Is it so unheard of that I genuinely care about my teammates?" Wenger responds to the comments in her Medium post.
Some people think I’m not making "the right face." Others think that this is unbelievable as to what “female engineers look like.” News flash: this isn’t by any means an attempt to label “what female engineers look like.” 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.Using the #ILookLikeAnEngineer hashtag, more engineers are showing the world what they look like, whether or not their appearance fits with anyone else's conception of who should represent women or people in tech.
This hashtag reminds me of another one started by a woman this year, #ThisIsWhatWeLookLike, which also shakes up people's preconceived notions about members of male-dominated fields.
Wenger's mission also resembles that of Women of Silicon Valley, a Medium site highlighting a diverse range of women making strides in tech and entrepreneurship. And based on the brave stand Wenger has taken against gender discrimination, I think she deserves a spot in it.
Images: Dice; Courtesy of Isis Wenger