Erin Sawyer, Spring 2016 Neiman Marcus Face of Beauty
February 20, 2016
Erin Sawyer (San Francisco, CA) has more than 11 years of automotive, technology, and management consulting experience leading teams in strategic sourcing, operations, and product development. Most recently, Erin was a senior supply chain executive at Tesla Motors, responsible for developing a long-term, scalable supply base strategy to enable Tesla’s goal of accelerating the world’s adoption of increasingly affordable electric cars. She previously worked as a mechanical engineer and project manager for numerous Fortune 500 companies and clients, including Honeywell International, Cummins Inc., and Ford Motor Company. Erin is an accomplished leader in nonprofit organizations whose mission is aligned with encouraging young women to enter careers as engineers and leaders. Erin is a board member of Kids’ Vision, a nonprofit designed to expose girls to how STEM is applied in high-tech companies in Silicon Valley.
In August 2015, female engineer Isis Wenger faced hurtful comments after appearing in a recruiting ad for her employer, OneLogin. Isis, a platform engineer, was one of several OneLogin engineers featured in a series of ads visible throughout San Francisco. OneLogin received unexpected backlash on social media, with people saying Isis’ image as an engineer was not “remotely plausible” and criticizing her “sexy smirk” in the ad. In response, Isis wrote a Medium post, explaining that she was not ready for the amount of attention brought by the ad and sharing some of the negative comments from strangers to illustrate the sexism that plagues the tech industry. Isis fired back, “this isn’t by any means an attempt to label ‘what female engineers look like.’ This is literally just ME, an example of ONE engineer at OneLogin.” She went on to boldly proclaim, “This Is What an Engineer Looks Like” and coined the hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer to redefine our awareness of diversity in tech.
The #ILookLikeAnEngineer hashtag started trending on Twitter, with men and women contributing to the conversation on women and underrepresented minorities in the tech industry and sharing stories of unconscious bias, discrimination, and harassment. The hashtag grew in popularity and went viral. That same week, I was inspired by this social media movement to lead a group of women engineers in a photo to post on social media using the hashtag, highlighting our company’s diversity. As a woman working in male-dominated industries—both automotive and tech—Isis’ message strongly resonated with me. So strongly that the next week I wrote an op-ed, published by Fortune, on my personal experiences with the discrimination, shame, and doubt I’ve faced in my career—and how I’ve worked to overcome these emotions. My candid essay on working as an engineer in the auto industry centered on the evolution of my self-perception and how I’ve come to embrace the notion of “this is what an engineer looks like.” Early in my career, I tried to adjust my look and persona to “fit in with the boys”—hiding my long, blond hair or wearing glasses. And only as I’ve gained more confidence, work experience, and seniority have I grown more comfortable with letting my hair down and not hiding my femininity.
The most important impact I can make is to provide young women with a positive role model of what a female engineer looks like. I am shattering the outdated idea of what an engineer should look like by being a strong leader and mentor to other women in my company, inspiring young girls through my nonprofit organization, and broadcasting to the world via social media and written opinion pieces #ILookLikeAnEngineer.
What I love about being chosen as one of Neiman Marcus’ new Faces of Beauty is that they selected remarkable women with brains, beauty, and passion for Spring 2016. It’s hugely important to show young women that not only can you be a female engineer, but you can also be feminine and beautiful. I embody the modern face of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and prove that women can be beautiful, smart leaders. I’m so proud to be part of this Neiman Marcus campaign and show the world how beautiful women engineers can be—inside and out.