Is it really that hard to imagine software engineers can be ANYBODY?
When Isis Wenger agreed to be part of a recruiting campaign for engineers, she never imagined she'd face the controversy that arose.
What exactly was it about this image that had people clamoring to dissect her involvement? Did she say something messed up about engineering? Did she do something offensive in her pose? Check out the image and see if you can pick up on it.
Did you notice it yet? Well let me help you out: All of the hubbub is over what she looks like. Because she's a woman. And because she's photogenic by traditional standards, people have even more to say about her inclusion into the campaign.
Some Internet commenters had some weird and sometimes offensive responses to her ad. Well, I have some responses to them.
"If their intention is to attract more women then it would have been better to choose a picture with a warm, friendly smile rather than a sexy smirk."
— Annoying person on the Internet
So she smirked. The fact that you find it sexy is all happening in your head. That's not on her or the ad campaign.
"This is some weird haphazard branding. I think they want to appeal to women, but are probably just appealing to dudes. Perhaps that's the intention all along. But I'm curious [if] people with brains find this quote remotely plausible and if women in particular buy this image of what a female software engineer looks like. IDK. Weird."
— Equally annoying person on the Internet
This image lets women see a woman in a male-dominated profession and maybe be inspired by it. And yet somehow, her effort has been twisted into a male-centric view. She fits into the standard of what you've been programmed to deem attractive, guy, therefore, she must have been intended for your ocular consumption, right? It's also pretty telling that you didn't "buy this image" — since it turns out the image is real. She IS what a female engineer looks like. Because she is one. Duh.
But the really great part of the story comes next. Because Isis wrote about it, and then the hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer took off, showing that engineers come in all genders, shapes, skin colors, and sizes.
#ILookLikeAnEngineer. Now join me. pic.twitter.com/g2QxbKgUzt
— Marshea F (@marsheaf) August 6, 2015
Joining the movement. Stereotypes are dumb. #ILookLikeAnEngineer #civilengineer #selfie pic.twitter.com/nmo5zYnUdn
— BreAnna Grantland (@BGrantland) August 6, 2015
Planning & scheduling satellites is complex. Meet Wendy, she designs systems to do just that. #ILookLikeAnEngineer pic.twitter.com/mKR0VdMPFM
— DigitalGlobe (@DigitalGlobe) August 6, 2015
#ILookLikeAnEngineer Mexican electronic engineer, security installer, love traveling + electronic music and Tacos 😊 pic.twitter.com/VBYdwtnHz8
— Jessica Gonzalez (@jemogoca) August 6, 2015
I lead a team of the world's best engineers as Chief Technology Officer. #ilooklikeanengineer pic.twitter.com/n3KCfnUsoi
— Caterpillar Inc. (@CaterpillarInc) August 6, 2015
Now it looks like the #ILookLikeAnEngineer movement has raised enough money to put up a billboard in San Francisco, making an overt attempt to change the general public's mind about what engineers look like.
It even inspired me to start taking my own career-change aspirations seriously.
Today, I'm a writer. But, having thought about this seriously for awhile, who knows what tomorrow could bring? The campaign gives inspiration not just to female engineers who deserve to be seen, but also to me and the millions of people secretly asking themselves this question:
For the young girls, grown women, and people of color in your life who may just need that nudge of encouragement, seeing this could make a huge difference in their life's trajectory.
That is what one picture — and a great movement — can do.