You May Have Seen My Face on BART

Hi, my name is Isis. I’m a full-stack engineer at OneLogin. They asked me to be one of four others participating recruiting campaign that was hastily planned and executed in 1 day. I was not personally ready for the amount of attention that it has brought me.

I doubt that most of you know me. I am a passionate self-taught engineer, extreme introvert, science-nerd, anime-lover, college dropout, hip hop dancer, yoga teacher/hoop-dance teacher, really authentic friend and HUMAN(omg?!). In fact, 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. I keep to myself most of the time and generally prefer when others mind their own business too.

I’m pretty blown away at the amount of attention my ad particularly has received. Friends have messaged me screenshots of their friends(who don’t know me) who have posted photos of it followed by discussion threads where it has received both positive and negative attention. Some of the responses warm my heart while others I consider to be kind of shocking… I will continue to post various threads that people send me on both sides of that spectrum.

I didn’t want or ask for any of this attention, but if I can use this to put a spotlight on gender issues in tech I consider that to be at least one win. The reality is that most people are well intentioned but genuinely blind to a lot of the crap that those who do not identify as male have to deal with. To list just a couple personal experiences:

  • I’ve had men throw dollar bills at me in a professional office(by an employee who works at that company, during work hours).
  • 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.

I would like to add that both men responsible for these unfavorable experiences are not bad people. They are both socially-accepted, “smart” and “normal” guys. This illustrates one of the industry’s deep underlying issues. 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. I’m sure that every other woman and non-male identifying person in this field has a long list of mild to extreme personal offenses that they’ve just had to tolerate. I’m not trying to get anyone in trouble, fired or ruin anyone’s life. I just want to make it clear that we are all humans, and there are certain patterns of behavior that no one should have to tolerate while in a professional environment.

The negative opinions about this ad that strangers feel so compelled to share illustrate solid examples of the sexism that plagues tech.

“Caitlyn, when you were a man, we could talk about your athleticism, your business acumen,” Stewart said. “But now you’re a woman, which means your looks are really the only thing we care about.”

At the end of the day, this is just an ad campaign and it is targeted at engineers. This is not intended to be marketed towards any specific gender — segregated thoughts like that continue to perpetuate sexist thought-patterns in this industry.

As for the comments about the ad… Is it so unheard of that I genuinely care about my teammates? Some people think I’m not making “the right face”. Others think that this is unbelievable as to what “female engineers look like”. News flash: this isn’t by any means an attempt to label “what female engineers look like.” This is literally just ME, an example of ONE engineer at OneLogin. The ad is supposed to be authentic. My words, my face, and as far as I am concerned it is.

I didn’t ask for any of this attention, and I’m rather uncomfortable with all of it. I’m just a human and I prefer to keep my life simple/reserved, but it blows my mind that my fully-clothed smiling face with unbrushed hair and minimal makeup on a white wall is seemingly more controversial in some communities than this simply because of my gender:

This Is What an Engineer Looks like…

Do you feel passionately about helping spread awareness and increase tech 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

www.ilooklikeanengineer.com

My stories have become such a source of inspiration for so many people. I am now developing a team to build out www.ilooklikeanengineer.com, a safe platform for us all to continue to share our stories and experiences relating to diversity issues in tech. If you are a UX designer or know Ruby on Rails/Backbone and would like to help contribute, we would love to have you on board. Please reach out at the information provided on the landing page.

Want to Support?

Some pretty amazing people, spearheaded by my co-workers wonderful wife Michelle, have joined together to make this movement make a lasting impact. I kind of fell backwards into all of this, but I really want to do everything I can to use the position that I am in to help make a positive impact. When this is all in the past, I would like to have created a larger impact on the community than simply generating a Twitter presence. Spreading awareness is the first step, but I want to help facilitate concise plans of action so we can create a genuine change. If you have any personal input and advice that you think could help make a difference please feel free to share it with me at isis@ilooklikeanengineer.com. You can help support us by checking out:

We are also hosting an #ILookLikeAnEngineer Community Gathering event in San Francisco on Thursday, August 13th.

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/ilooklikeanengineer-with-isis-wenger-tickets-18026391422

Who knew one blog post could ignite such a profound movement? It can be very alienating to not fit a standard mold. Our goal is to bring together a diverse group of like-minded people from technology and science for a fun evening filled with activities, mingling and sharing our voices.

@isisAnchalee

*I give permission for press to use the material from this post*