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Why I had to invent #iLookLikeAnEngineer to challenge tech stereotypes

Isis Wenger getting an award from the City of San Francisco for challenging stereotypes in the tech industry (Photo by Kenny Hoff)

Sometimes a simple idea ignites a staggering response — like when Isis Wenger, a 22-year-old platform engineer, created a hashtag that sparked tens of millions of conversations around the world. Her company, OneLogin, had included her photo in a recruiting campaign, and the reaction to her image shocked her so much that she took a selfie and tweeted it out with the slogan #iLookLikeAnEngineer, asking people to think about their own assumptions and stereotypes. That tapped into concerns about science, math, engineering and technology education for girls, why women are less likely to pursue those fields for their careers — and how to change that.

[When she got tired of sexism at work — like having dollar bills thrown at her — this woman spoke out]

[How else are women pulling one another into the tech world?]

After marveling over the response, Wenger challenged people to keep talking about these issues.

By Isis Wenger

Who knew one simple Medium post could ignite such a profound movement?

#iLookLikeAnEngineer is now being spread globally in over 50 countries. It has received over 75,000 tweets and has been covered in countless international news outlets.

The fact that this campaign has been adopted and continued by such a vastly ranging demographic illustrates the dramatic need for it to be addressed. This is not just about my voice; your voice is equally important. This is about the voices of thousands of people all over the world, unified together under a mutual message.

Together, we have the power to create a sustaining positive impact.

Gender diversity challenges seem to be what mainstream media has picked up on the most. While I think that it is absolutely wonderful that this has sparked so many positive discussions about the way that women are treated in STEM, I want to clarify that #iLookLikeAnEngineer is intentionally radically inclusive.

It’s not just about me and it’s not just about women.

#iLookLikeAnEngineer is about anyone and everyone who wants to pursue STEM, regardless of their external appearances.

Labeling this as a “campaign for women” is very limiting, and will only further separate us from everyone else in the community.

We see ourselves as equals, so we must also recognize others as equals, starting with our own actions and words.

Fighting exclusion with exclusion will not help us get closer to forming a solution. It is important to realize that we are all on the same team; this movement is for everyone regardless of skin color or X-chromosome count.

Do you have any ideas that would help create a positive change? There are many alternative paths that can be taken towards creating the solution; increasing awareness and discussions is only one route.

As individuals we have the the power to influence our own environments so that we can be more mindful and empathetic towards others. When we know better, we can do better.

Starting with ourselves we can work together towards co-creating a more respectful and inclusive community.

I will continue advocating for this cause and I encourage you to share your voice because yours matters too.