The subject of a poster campaign encouraging people to apply for jobs at a technology company has been forced to defend herself after people didn't believe someone who looked like her could possibly be an engineer.
Isis Wenger was pictured on posters for OneLogin in San Francisco alongside three others, but soon found herself commented on and discussed online when some assumed she was a model and the ad would only appeal to men, and others saying her expression should have been a “warm, friendly smile rather than a sexy smirk”.
Seeing her appear alongside a quote about the company prompted one commenter to write on Facebook, “I’m curious people with brains find this quote remotely plausible if women in particular buy this image of what a female software engineer looks like.”
Now Wenger has turned the situation into a positive by encouraging the hashtag 'Ilooklikeanengineer' because she is, in fact, a OneLogin engineer. Shocking, we know.
Writing an essay on website Medium, Wenger said: “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.”
She went on to reveal some of the unacceptable behaviour she had already encountered during her career, including men throwing dollar bills at her in the office and one male engineer asking her to consider being “friends with benefits”.
She writes: “They are both socially-accepted, ‘smart’ and ‘normal’ guys. This illustrates one of the industry’s deep underlying issues. There is a significant lack of empathy and insight towards recognizing that their ‘playful/harmless’ behavior is responsible for making others inappropriately uncomfortable. 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 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.”
She is now determined to open up discussions about diversity in the industry, and much in the vein of the recent “distractingly sexy” movement, others have readily jumped on board to spread the world online - sharing pictures of themselves with her hashtag.
Wenger, who describes herself in the post as an “extreme introvert” and “science-nerd”, points out “I didn’t ask for any of this attention, and I’m rather uncomfortable with all of it”, but has generated so much interest in the debate that she's developing a website to provide a platform for discussion and experience-sharing, and is now looking to “create a genuine change” by coordinating support and action.
To get involved, visit ilooklikeanengineer.com
Words: Amy Swales / Images: Isis Wenger