I'm a little late to the party here, but once I finally caught on and saw that #ILookLikeAnEngineer has been trending, the first thing I thought was, "FINALLY." Praise Isis Wenger because that girl had the chutzpa to say what needed to be said.
Being in an engineering sorority, I am surrounded by girls who are absolutely, drop-dead gorgeous, but also have minds sharp as a tack. They are some of the brightest women at the University of Michigan who are doing ridiculously cool things after graduation. I have sisters working for companies such as Microsoft and 3M, all the way to Harley Davidson.
I am sure that each of my sorority sisters (and many engineers) can relate to the following scenario.
Random Person: So what are you studying?
Me: I'm an engineer.
Random Person: Oh, really? I never would have guessed. You don't look like an engineer.
For some reason, there is a misconception that, "You don't look like an engineer." is a compliment.
Unfortunately, it is a backhanded one.
All I am hearing is, "You look way too ditzy to be an engineer!" That's not exactly a compliment that brightens my day.
That being said, some people are worried what the lasting impact of this viral hashtag will be. How will the headlines turn into actions? Are the big-name CEOs out there listening to this?
While I truly believe that this hashtag provides an opportune moment to once again raise the topic of equality in the workplace, I also see this hashtag as a moment for many to say what everyone has been thinking. Sometimes things just need to be said for the sake of getting them off your chest.
I cannot tell you the number of times I have griped about remarks that belittled my academic accomplishments and placed emphasis on looks or being a woman instead. It's tough to tolerate those comments when you have a Dad for a role model, who couldn't care less if I were a girl or a boy. For every Barbie that he brought home, there was a remote-controlled monster truck to go with it. I played Nancy Drew on our boxy, old PC and then switched right over to Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo. In our house, there was no such thing as a "girl's toy" or a "boy's toy".
For every Barbie he brought home, there was a remote-controlled monster truck to go with it.
While he may not have taught me to change a flat tire (yet), he did enthusiastically push me to become an engineer. And all the while, my dad never held me back from indulging in a new pair of wedges or the newest eyeshadow palette. He accepts that I have my girly moments, but also knows that it does not discount the fact that I have brains in my head. He never once suggested that I consider a more "female friendly" major. If anything, he encouraged me to show up the boys. This is what a lot more little girls need to be told from day one, that they do look like engineers.
There are a lot of mixed emotions about the trending hashtag, but the way I see it: #ILookLikeAnEngineer is also a social movement that lets engineers feel safe to be brilliant and beautiful at the same time.
Who wouldn't want to take advantage of that?