#ILookLikeAnEngineer: Changing Stereotypes of Women In Engineering

isis anchalee from twitterFor years, it’s been evident to many that women are an untapped resource for filling the skills gap in American manufacturing. As we posted on the blog about a year ago, social stigmas can be a very real hindrance to women working in all STEM fields.

The Portland Press Herald reported that less than 10% of young women placed manufacturing among the top five occupations they felt offered them career opportunities. Although we’d like to say that this social stigma has completely changed in the last year, that simply isn’t the case. Unfortunately, the larger STEM fields are places where women are chronically underrepresented, despite the fact that females rank higher in the male/female university student ratio than ever before.

In 2012, the percentage of female engineers working in the United States was just 14%, and that number has not increased significantly since then.

But recently, thanks to social media and some very strong female voices, this issue has been brought to the forefront. It began with a post on the Medium website by female software engineer Isis Wenger: “Hi, my name is Isis. I’m a full-stack engineer at OneLogin. They asked me to be one of four others participating in a 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.” In the ad, Isis’s photo was accompanied by a quote about her relationship with her team members.

After appearing in this recruiting ad, Wenger reports receiving extensive attention about the ad, both positive and negative. However, she was shocked by some of the comments that were made. USAToday reports that one person said, “I’m curious if people with brains find this quote remotely plausible if women in particular buy this image of what a female software engineer looks like.”

Her post on Medium, inspired by the comments received questioning whether or not she was actually an engineer, asked other female engineers to share their photos. “I invite you to help spread the word and help us redefine ‘what an engineer should look like.’” And that’s when #ilooklikeanengineer was born.

So far, the hashtag and an accompanying website have served to help challenge stereotypes and increase awareness of sexism in STEM fields. Female engineers, software developers, and IT managers throughout the world have tweeted their photo along with a message about their field, as well as the hashtag #ilooklikeanengineer. By gathering photos of engineers of all genders, colors, shapes, and sizes, Wenger hopes to refute common stereotypes of what employees in tech and STEM fields should look like.

Essentially, it shouldn’t matter what they look like at all. We applaud Wenger for her bravery and dedication to making a difference and encouraging women to pursue their dreams, in whatever field that may be.

To see the full list of tweets with the hashtag, click here! If you’re an engineer with a photo to share, we encourage you to do so and tweet us at @NebraskaMFG, any time! To connect with other female engineers in Nebraska, check out the UNL Society of Women Engineers.

Photo credit: Isis Anchalee