Over 100,000 women have responded to the trending “#ILookLikeAnEngineer” hashtag this week in answer to sexist comments sparked by an advertisement for California-based tech firm OneLogin, which features a picture of Isis Wenger, a 22-year-old engineer at the firm. Wenger said that she was “not prepared for the reaction” the ad caused, eliciting negative opinions about female engineers, with some arguing that Wenger doesn’t look like an engineer should.
Wenger posted a picture of herself on Twitter and the hashtag featured in her photo has swept through the social media site. Thousands upon thousands of other women and some men have responded to the topic with pictures of themselves and stories about their careers as engineers. “I’m female, wear pink and I’m pregnant. I’m also a full stack software engineer,” tweeted Jolene Hayes (@jhayes). Even twenty-seven of the female engineers at Tesla joined the hashtag, with more users tweeting their own photos and stories every day.
The responses to Wenger’s and OneLogin’s advertisement is reminiscent of other recent remarks. Tim Hunt, former Honorary Professor at the University College London’s Faculty of life sciences, told an audience in South Korea about his troubles with female scientists: “Three things happen when [women] are in the lab: You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry.” A campaign similar to Wenger’s lit up on Twitter and other social media following Hunt’s comments, featuring selfies of women working with labs, captioned with sarcastic comments aimed at Hunt, who has since resigned from his position.
Wenger writes that “at the end of the day, this is just an ad campaign, and it is targeted at engineers. This is not intended to be marketed at any specific gender—segregated thoughts like this that continue to perpetuate sexist thought-patterns in this industry.” She also adds that she is “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.”
Twitter campaigns like Wenger’s and other women in science and tech are gaining power, giving a voice and a face to the reality of women’s experience—and prevalence—in those industries. The louder the campaigns are, the more likely they are to be heard and, hopefully, taken to heart.