Want to attend the #ILookLikeAnEngineer mixer in San Francisco tonight to show your support for women and members of other groups underrepresented in the technology industry? Too late. Tickets for the event sold out about as fast as the now-ubiquitous Twitter hashtag went viral, in just the latest sign that what started as a seemingly innocuous picture from a tech recruitment campaign has become something much bigger.
The story begins with a recruitment campaign for OneLogin in which the sign-in and identity management company paired photos of its employees with their comments about the company. When software engineer Isis Wenger appeared one such advertisement for OneLogin, people on Twitter said she didn’t look like she could be an engineer.
As of last week, more than 75,000 people on Twitter had used the hashtag to say that they disagreed, according to the Associated Press. By now that number has only grown. Numerous tech companies count themselves among those to jump in on the conversation, including OneLogin, which Tweeted a message of support for its employee, SnapChat and Tesla Motors.
Now Wenger has a new role at OneLogin in addition to being a software engineer – social advocate. The hybridization of her position allows her to continue pushing her message of inclusion in engineering forward, she says.
A planned national ad campaign using the hashtag has raised enough money to cover the cost of a retainer for an advertising company but is still seeking corporate sponsors, according to Wenger.
She says a friend of hers is gathering developers to work on a platform for members of groups underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) where they'll be able to share stories about the challenges they face breaking into careers in those fields.
The application will “hopefully widen more people’s understanding of the challenges that people experience related to the lack of diversity within the industry,” Wenger tells Inc. in an email.
While the Twitter hashtag has predominantly been featured in posts by women, the Associated Press has pointed out that African Americans and members of other minority groups have also used the viral phrase “I Look Like An Engineer” as a platform for making themselves visible in STEM fields.
Wenger says the social phenomenon, which she is calling a movement, is “certainly not only limited to women” but is “intended to send the message that you can have a successful STEM career regardless of your external appearance.”
“I hope that all of this can increase diversity discussions and open more lines of communication within the STEM community,” Wenger says.
In short, a lot has happened since Wenger first wrote a blog post on Medium about both the positive and negative responses to her appearance in OneLogin’s recruitment campaign.
And no one could be more surprised than Wenger and OneLogin CEO Thomas Penderson at what has been spurred by her photo in company's pretty run-of-the-mill recruitman campaign.
“The engineers we ended up choosing for the campaign was a diverse sample of the engineers at OneLogin, but we had expected that Peter with his top hat and hacker shirt would be the most controversial one, not Isis, simply because she is female,” says Penderson in a written statement.