Sexist Reactions To An Ad Spark #ILookLikeAnEngineer Campaign

August 4, 2015

After being surprised by online responses to her appearance in a recruiting ad, software engineer Isis Wenger wanted to see if there anyone else felt like they didn’t fit a “cookie-cutter mold.” The response to her #ILookLikeAnEngineer campaign dwarfs those initial reactions.

The hashtag, which was generating thousands of responses and tweets Tuesday, grew out of Wenger’s post at the Medium website, in which she described what must have been a frustrating experience: agreeing to be one of her tech company’s highlighted workers for a recruiting campaign – only to see many people question whether she actually works there as an engineer.

“The negative opinions about this ad that strangers feel so compelled to share illustrate solid examples of the sexism that plagues tech,” Wenger wrote.

She said she was surprised by the inordinate amount of attention paid to her ad – in which, like her peers, she appears on a square placard, wearing a black T-shirt with the logo of her employer, OneLogin. On social media, the campaign’s merits were debated; so were Wenger’s expression and appearance.

It was not at all what Wenger, a self-described nerd who likes yoga, anime – and not being the center of attention — had in mind when she went along with her company’s plan.

“News flash: this isn’t by any means an attempt to label ‘what female engineers look like,'” she wrote. “This is literally just ME, an example of ONE engineer at OneLogin.”

While she was giving examples, Wenger also recounted instances in which she had experienced sexism, saying that some men in the tech industry exhibit “a significant lack of empathy and insight towards recognizing that their ‘playful/harmless’ behavior is responsible for making others inappropriately uncomfortable.

Wenger also wrote that if she can use the attention “to put a spotlight on gender issues in tech I consider that to be at least one win.”

She then asked, “Do you not fit the ‘cookie-cutter mold’ of what people believe engineers ‘should look like?'”

And the answers quickly came back: “#iLookLikeAnEngineer.”

Those who took notice included the Federal Communications Commission’s Jessica Rosenworcel, who wrote of the hashtag, “Just combing through all the photos online is inspiring.”

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.