Wednesday, August 12, 2015

How One Hashtag #ilooklikeanengineer Changed the World

Isis Wenger, a 22-year-old platform engineer in San Francisco, was involved in a recruiting campaign for her company OneLogin. As a part of the campaign, she posted a photo of herself using the hashtag #ilooklikeanengineer and the response shocked her. Soon, her post was everywhere.  

“If you knew me you would probably know that being famous is one of my biggest nightmares; seriously right up there with falling into a porta potty,” she told The Washington Post in a recent interview.  

Her photo and hashtag included a challenge:

“Do you feel passionately about helping spread awareness about tech gender diversity? Do you not fit the ‘cookie-cutter mold’ of what people believe engineers ‘should look like? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I invite you to help spread the word and help us redefine ‘what an engineer should look like’ #iLookLikeAnEngineer.”

Soon, her message went viral across the Web.

Image via MarketWatch

“I think the message went viral because it’s not just my message,” Wenger told The Post. That’s why she made sure the hashtag was so all-encompassing. “It addresses a problem that many people of different genders and ethnic backgrounds face.”

Especially when she was first starting out in the industry when people were very condescending. But growing up, she had already taught herself to build websites by the time she was eight, by right-clicking ‘view source’ on Neopets and reverse-engineering bits of code to figure out what each individual tag did.

By early Tuesday afternoon, the hashtag #Ilooklikeanengineer had sparked 36,000 tweets, and other innovations, like one page — showing women in caps and gowns, Lilly Pulitzer and pink hair — a storytelling app about diversity in tech, and a T-shirt someone designed featuring the hashtag with half the proceeds going to a charity Wenger selects.

“Honestly, I consider it all to be very heartwarming and inspiring,” Wenger said.

She was surprised that so many people posted photos but said it was fun scrolling through seeing the incredible diversity of images and felt that, once the idea picked up momentum, everyone wanted to be part of that community.


She said, “It’s simultaneously overwhelming and incredibly empowering to feel like I am genuinely helping increase awareness.”

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