The hoodie-clad Silicon Valley engineer has become so omnipresent in popular culture that it’s become a tired cliche. Now a hashtag campaign is challenging the stereotype that programmers fall somewhere on a spectrum between Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.
It started with a recruiting ad for the tech company OneLogin, featuring a female engineer in glasses and a black t-shirt and a quote about what a great place OneLogin is work. While the ad campaign also featured several male employees of OneLogin, the image of the female engineer immediately began attracting attention after it went up in BART stations throughout the Bay Area. People didn’t believe the ad.
On Facebook, one user wrote that the ad seemed like an attempt at comedy. Another wondered whether “women in particular buy this image of what a female software engineer looks like.”
No, the ad wasn’t trying to “snare” male engineers with an attractive woman. The woman was just one of the engineers who works at OneLogin. The woman in the ad, Isis Wenger, addressed the criticism in a blog post on Saturday:
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.
Wenger asked others who don’t fit the “cookie-cutter mold” to speak up using the hashtag #iLookLikeAnEngineer.
The hashtag has already inspired tens of thousands of posts on Twitter and Instagram. A website, ilooklikeanengineer.net, launched to aggregate all of the posts.
There were female engineers from NASA:
Moms who code:
And engineers who challenged racial stereotypes of the tech industry, too:
“At the end of the day, this is just an ad campaign and it is targeted at engineers,” Wenger wrote in her post. “This is not intended to be marketed towards any specific gender — segregated thoughts like that continue to perpetuate sexist thought-patterns in this industry.”
An average of about 3 percent of employees at 11 large tech companies that recently released employment data are black and 4 percent identify as Hispanic or Latino. The average number of women at the same companies was 35 percent.
In tech, these demographics certainly make up a small slice of the pie, but they’re not non-existent. It’s important to not pretend that they are.