Inclusive Innovation – #ILookLikeAnEngineer is Only the Start of the Conversation

Racepoint Global

Forget the #tubestrike – there’s a new hashtag in town, and it’s spurred some healthy debate here at Racepoint towers. Coverage continues to gain traction around Isis Anchale, the 22-year-old engineer at the identity management firm OneLogin, who agreed to participate in a recruiting ad for her company, leading to a raft of sexist comments based on Anchale’s attractive appearance. “I think they want to appeal to women, but are probably just appealing to dudes,” wrote one Facebook commenter. “Perhaps that’s the intention all along. But I’m curious people with brains find this quote remotely plausible and if women in particular buy this image of what a female software engineer looks like.”

The Twitterverse is a-flutter with image after image of women engineers showing support for Anchale and her cause with the #ILookLikeAnEngineer trending as we speak – and we’re loving seeing this support pour in. But from my perspective the discussion reaches far beyond issues of feminism and women in tech. In her own words in a recent blog, Anchale states that “this industry’s culture fosters an unconscious lack of sensitivity towards those who do not fit a certain mould.”

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This is not a bra-burning, “I am woman – hear me roar” moment. (Although as a colleague mentioned to me earlier today, we have a way to go on that front. The real measure of success from a PR person’s perspective, in her words, will be “when I no longer have to pitch for a feature on “women in tech”, but rather am just pitching for a feature that’s relevant to the client and by chance my spokesperson is a woman.”)

The wider topic this raises is that the industry should be conscious of any type of barrier that may hinder innovation. By creating a hostile environment for any person who may not fit the traditional mould, we are potentially discouraging the development of brilliant, exciting new solutions products using technology. Movements like the indomitable Martha Lane-Fox’s Dot Everyone campaign and the fantastic Ada Lovelace Day coming up in October to celebrate women in STEM, illustrate that we are headed in the right direction – but there is a long road ahead, and we need to challenge preconceived ideas at every turning point along the way.

Anyone who loves tech should feel passionate about making it as inclusive as possible. Keep your eyes peeled for more on this topic from the Racepoint team – we’re planning an exciting event later this year to keep the conversation going. Come as you are – because ANYONE with the right skills, knowledge and enthusiasm can be an innovator and we need to keep breaking down these barriers, gender or otherwise.