Whether you are on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, it was hard to miss the #ILookLikeAnEngineer campaign that was all over social media two weeks ago. The hashtag was sparked by Isis Wenger, an engineer from OneLogin in the San Francisco Bay area, who was selected to participate in a recruitment campaign that her company was running. With three other OneLogin engineers, Isis was featured in billboard ads sporting a OneLogin Engineering T-shirt and sharing why she enjoys working at her company. The ad campaign received negative attacks primarily directed at Isis questioning whether she was really an engineer, all the while – attacking her appearance. In defense, Isis took to Twitter and the hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer was born…
In solidarity, engineers, both male and female, from diversity organizations such as SWE and NSBE, and technical organizations such as ASME and ASCE, have responded by posting their own photos, using the hashtag to show the world what an engineer really looks like.
Personally, I’d like to say a big thank you to all of you who participated via Twitter, Instagram or Facebook and tagged @SWEtalk – it was so much fun seeing all your pictures and learning a little bit about all of you.
But, on a more serious note, the questioning responses Isis received: “Are you really an engineer?” – is unfortunately, still too common of a reaction from the general public, even today in the 21st century. Women still face the challenge of being taken seriously for their accomplishments and skills in the engineering workplace.
Over the course of my career I have walked into many construction trailers at power plant sites, sent there by my company as a technical expert, and all too regularly, observed the eye rolls of the predominately-male team in the room. It seemed that I constantly felt the pressure of needing to prove my expertise, needing to prove that I belonged there.
One comment that Isis made in her initial blog post struck a particular chord with me, and defines – all too well, what this #ILookLikeAnEngineer hashtag is really all about: “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”.
SWE is an organization that encourages women to be proud to be their authentic selves. And that was why this is such an important campaign for us to continue supporting.