What Does an Engineer Look Like to You?

A San Francisco tech startup didn’t expect to spark this question last week. The company’s recent recruitment campaign featured pictures of their employees explaining why they enjoyed working for the company. One ad in particular featured a platform engineer, a young woman named Isis Anchalee. The ad with Isis’ picture created a frenzy on Twitter. People who saw the ad didn’t believe, because of her appearance, that she was actually an engineer. Many thought it was just a cheap ploy to get interest in their company.

Isis shut down any confusion by responding with a picture of herself on Twitter holding up a sign saying #ilooklikeanengineer. Female engineers across the world responded immediately, and followed suit by posting pictures of themselves with the hashtag. By the next morning, there were more than 22,000 tweets with the hashtag #ilooklikeanengineer. (Check out the TechCrunch article about it)

The whole idea of women in the tech industry has been at the top of my mind the past week. Why should women have to prove themselves as being engineers? Why do people have this image of what an engineer is supposed to look like?

Passport’s recent work with local Charlotte, NC non-profit, Project Scientist has also kept me thinking about this topic. Project Scientist’s goal is to educate, coach, and advocate for girls and women with an aptitude, talent, and passion for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). During Project Scientist’s summer academy, the girls get to visit local businesses in these fields for hands on learning, including Passport’s headquarters last week to explore the world of programming. After seeing the girls’ excitement for learning, it’s tough to believe that out of the 78% of school-aged girls who have an interest in STEM, only 25% of women make up the STEM workforce.

I wanted to get a better understanding of all this and learn more from one of our female engineers at Passport.

Keep an eye out for next week’s post when I speak with one of Passport’s first programming employees, Divya Venkataramanappa, about her experiences as a woman in engineering.