This week, billboards have started popping up in the Bay Area to remind the local 'meritocracy' that not every programming genius comes packaged in the form of a hoodie-clad white guy.
After the #ILookLikeAnEngineer hashtag campaign caught on last month, a group of female engineers crowdfunded nearly $50,000 to erect billboards in the Bay Area debunking the gilded mythology of the nerdy engineering dude. As a counter to the image of the Mark Zuckerberg acolyte, the new billboards offer up this:
The billboards will go up throughout San Francisco, as well inside BART stations and along Bay Bridge, the 880 in Oakland, and the 101 in Palo Alto, Santa Clara and San Jose — exactly the kinds of places tech company executives or errant brogrammers might see them on their commute to San Francisco or Silicon Valley.
The group hopes that ads will help stoke the conversation about diversity in tech and maybe even inspire more diverse tech hiring, forcing Silicon Valley to contend with its diversity problem every time there's gridlock on the 101. They'll run through the end of October. (For a list of exact locations, see here.)
The #ILookLikeAnEngineer campaign took off after a female engineer at the tech company OneLogin received backlash when the company featured her in a recruiting ad campaign that ran in BART stations. On social media, people painted the ad as a bad attempt at ensnaring male engineers with a cute woman.
Isis Wenger, the engineer, wrote about the experience on Medium and asked others who don’t fit the “cookie-cutter mold” to speak up using the hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer. Within 17 hours, the billboard campaign had nearly doubled its $3,500 goal.
Plenty of corporations have glommed on to the #ILookLikeAnEngineer campaign, with companies like IBM and GE tweeting out photos affixed with the hashtag.
While the OneLogin ad inspired immediate blowback, but so far the social media conversation about the #ILookLikeAnEngineer billboards has been slow to materialize. If there's conversation happening about the new billboards, it must be taking place offline. Twitter is mostly silent on the topic.