When OneLogin Platform Engineer Isis Wenger agreed to participate in the company’s recruiting campaign, she felt pretty apathetic about it. She also didn’t anticipate the backlash that has come from it.
“As a genuine introvert I have never cared much about gaining public attention and I really wasn’t prepared for how much everything blew up,” Wenger told me in an email. “Honestly when I see ads, I don’t think much of them and I certainly don’t try to read deeply into them. It was surprising to me to see that other people did.”
The ad, pictured above, is part of OneLogin’s efforts to recruit more engineers. The recruiting campaign featured several of OneLogin’s engineers along with statements about why they like working at the company.
For ultimate visibility, OneLogin put up the ads in both BART and MUNI stations at Embarcadero in San Francisco, OneLogin Director of Design and Brand Experience Chloë Bregman, who was in charge of the campaign, told me in an email. The company also decided to put up additional images of Isis throughout the city in order to positively highlight women in tech.
To both the company and Wenger’s surprise, what got people talking about the campaign wasn’t the image of its security engineer wearing a black hat and hackers shirt, Bregman says. Instead, it was the photo of Wenger. Here’s a taste of what people had to say about it:
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 people with brains find this quote remotely plausible if women in particular buy this image of what a female software engineer looks like. Idk. Weird.
And here’s what another guy said:
If their intention is to attract more women then it would have been a better to choose a picture with a warm, friendly smile rather than a sexy smirk.
The negative opinions about the ad further illustrates that sexism is alive and well in the tech industry. Wenger explains it perfectly in her post on Medium, saying, “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.”
To change the way people think about engineers, Wenger started the hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer.
“#ILookLikeAnEngineer is intentionally not gender-specific,” Wenger says. “External appearances and the number of X chromosomes a person has is hardly a measure of engineering ability. My goal is to help redefine “what an engineer should look like” because I think that is a step towards eliminating sub-conscious bias towards diversity in tech.”
Now, #ILookLikeAnEngineer is trending on Twitter in San Francisco. Here’s a look at how people, including Wenger, are contributing to the conversation.