The world of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is an unforgiving one for women. Underrepresented for years in these industries, many programs aim to create engaging opportunities for women to foster interest in STEM from a young age and beyond.
While women make up 40% of the total U.S. workforce, they fill less than a quarter of STEM industry jobs, according to a survey by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Stepping up to highlight the diversity in her field, platform engineer Isis Wenger wrote on Medium earlier this month about her tough experiences of being a woman in the tech industry.
“I’ve had men throw dollar bills at me in a professional office (by an employee who works at that company, during work hours),” Wenger wrote. “I’ve had an engineer on salary at a bootcamp message me to explicitly “be friends with benefits” while I was in the interview process at the school he worked for.”
The motivation for Wenger to write the Medium article came from reactions to a recent recruitment drive where she works, OneLogin. Wenger’s image had been used for the company’s recruitment posters posted online and in the local area. In such open media, she became the unwilling subject of comments within discussion threads online, both negative and positive.
Taking to Twitter to tackle the stigma, she posted this photo of herself to spread her message of gender diversity in tech using the hashtag #iLookLikeAnEngineer
And the message spread far and wide with many engineers adding their voices and photos to the cause.
Engineering degrees from @MIT #ILookLikeAnEngineer (read: https://t.co/tZpuMu5fwT) pic.twitter.com/kKNEQqd5kq
— Emily Calandrelli (@TheSpaceGal) August 3, 2015
I worked as an engineer at @Intel + @Twitter, now I build features for Windows at @Microsoft #ILookLikeAnEngineer pic.twitter.com/ttGUnHseYH
— dara (@daraoke) August 4, 2015
We've shipped @Windows @bing @Office @Azure @VisualStudio + more at @Microsoft. You're welcome! #ILookLikeAnEngineer pic.twitter.com/MwEACZUWx7
— Dona Sarkar (@donasarkar) August 5, 2015
In an interview with the Washington Post, Wenger was asked for her thoughts about why the hashtag caught on so quickly: “…because it’s not just my message. It addresses a problem that many people of different genders and ethnic backgrounds face.”
“Especially when I was first starting out in the industry, people were very condescending. There’s no way I could have really been an engineer, right? They had pretty low expectations of me.”
Challenging those expectations, Wenger has started an excellent awareness campaign that is sure to resonate with many around the world.
[H/T: Washington Post]