Isis Wenger Rallies Women in Tech Against Stereotypes

Posted August 14th, 2015 at 3:08 pm (UTC-4)
1 comment

Isis Wenger, Platform Engineer with identity management firm OneLogin, told TECHtonics she never anticipated what would happen when she participated in this recruiting ad:

Advertising campaign from OneLogin, featuring Platform Engineer Isis Wenger (C). (Isis Anchalee Wenger)

Advertising campaign from OneLogin, featuring Platform Engineer Isis Wenger (C). (Isis Wenger)

Never mind the guys featured on the left and right sides of the poster. It was Wenger’s part, right in the center of the poster, which attracted all the attention. Some folks suggested featuring a pretty woman in the ad was meant to target prospective male employees. Others quipped on social media that the young lady is too pretty to be an engineer, among other comments appropriately blacked out in this screenshot:

(Isis Anchalee)

(Isis Wenger)

Finding herself in the eye of the storm, Wenger wrote an article in Medium to respond to the criticism.

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.

But she didn’t stop there. Going on the offensive, she launched the #ILookLikeAnEngineer campaign on Twitter.

In an email interview, Isis offered her take on this episode and how it morphed into something much bigger.

Isis Wenger

WENGER: This all started when my company asked me, alongside several colleagues, to be a part of a campaign to recruit more engineers. We were pictured on a white wall next to a quote of something we loved about working at OneLogin. I really wasn’t prepared for the amount of attention my ad, in particular, received.

People started having their own discussions, some in disbelief that I could actually do the role that my title stated. This led me to publish a Medium post in an attempt to respond to all of the negative attention. Shortly after publishing the Medium article, the post took off. People wanted to help support me and were reaching [out].

This inspired me to create the hashtag #iLookLikeAnEngineer as a simple way for others to continue the movement and share support in their own words. I chose #iLookLikeAnEngineer because it is intentionally radically inclusive. It addresses a deeper systemic issue that many people with diverse backgrounds are faced with. The goal is to raise awareness that appearances do not limit your own personal ability to work in STEM [Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics].

Q. What was the response to the campaign?

WENGER: It is absolutely amazing that so many people of different shapes and colors have supported this message; it certainly is not only limited to women. #iLookLikeAnEngineer is an egalitarian movement intended to send the message that you can have a successful STEM career regardless of your external appearance.

Q. What do you think it might take to change the stereotypes about women in technology?

WENGER: As a society we are making progress in seeing through our own stereotypes. We are learning to realize we should not let what others think we can be limit our goals. In time, I hope these issues will not be as great as they are today. By increasing the amount of strong diverse role models, encouraging and seeing corporations take responsibility for creating an inclusive environment and standing up for our individual self to achieve our dreams, we will create a more diverse STEM community.

Q. Has your company been supportive?

WENGER: OneLogin has been amazingly supportive. They understand how passionate I am about creating a positive social change and are willing to support me along the way. They are allowing me to create a hybrid role of engineering and social advocacy so I can still continue sharing this message while doing the job I am passionate about.

Q. Where will you go from here?

WENGER: This has all happened so quickly, so I haven’t been able to fully explore all of the potential future opportunities. I’m incredibly excited that OneLogin will support me as I continue to keep this movement going and I’m looking forward to seeing where it will go. It’s inspiring to know that even one person speaking up for themselves actually can have the power to make a difference.

#iLookLikeAnEngineer has inspired people in other industries to … share their voices too. Now there are also hashtags like #iLookLikeASurgeon, #iLookLikeAProfessor and #iLookLikeAScientist making their own unique impacts.

Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

One response to “Isis Wenger Rallies Women in Tech Against Stereotypes”

  1. Clay says:

    So Facebook comments are national news now? Way to go, VOA

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