Internet Backs Woman Who Said She Is The 'Token Girl Engineer' At Her Job

A woman went viral after revealing in Reddit's popular "Am I The A**hole" forum that she answered honestly about her company's diversity during a recruitment event, stating she felt tokenized as a woman.

The anonymous woman who goes only by u/tokengirlengineer went into detail about her situation in a post that received more than 13,800 upvotes and 1,300 comments in less than 20 hours, with many users calling out the company for tokenizing her as one of two female employees.

Tokenism is defined as hiring a person belonging to a minority group in order to give the appearance that the company is diverse and that employees are being treated fairly.

Consuela Knox, the Director of Admissions Operations and Diversity Recruiting Manager at the Owen Graduate School of Management, spoke about tokenism at a panel at Vanderbilt University.

She stated that many companies claim they want to diversify their applicant pool yet only have one candidate from a particular minority group.

"You could be in an organization where there are very few people like you. And in one regard, it could have been that you were hired as a token," she said. "In another regard, it could be a company that's really, genuinely interested in diversifying but their efforts haven't been fruitful...the intent was good, they just haven't gotten things lined up well."

In the post titled "AITA for saying at a recruiting event, that I am trotted out as the token 'girl engineer' for every recruiting event?" the woman explained that she is one of two employees in a technical role at the tech company she works for.

She explained that her coworker is "very introverted" and would not do well recruiting people to the company so any time there is an event she is asked to attend. She said it's frustrating to her mainly because spending the day at a recruiting event puts her entire team behind.

"I was at a recruiting event at a local college, and a young woman who was thinking of applying asked how the diversity at my company was," the post explained. "It looked good from our panel and promotional materials. (Side note... Almost every person of color, woman, or queer presenting person on the promo materials has either quit or never worked there in the first place)"

The woman said she was in front of a small group and answered honestly, saying there are only two women in technical roles and that as one of them, she sometimes feels like she is working two jobs: engineer and "token girl engineer."

She explained that she gets pulled from work for every single photo opportunity and recruiting event.

"Honestly, if you like being a trailblazer and are prepared to take on the extra unspoken PR as the 'girl engineer,' you might find a role here fulfilling," she told the group. "But if you prefer keeping your head down to focus on the technical side, it is easier to do that at a company where there is more gender and racial diversity."

The woman wrote that the other woman appreciated her honest answer but that her manager told her to leave the event. She also said she now has a meeting with HR and her manager.

In the post, she explained that she did not think her opinion would be new to either of them because she had already made them aware she was not interested in being a part of more photo opportunities. She also said she told them she did not want to help with recruiting just because of her gender.

"I've been told that it's 'important' for me to be there to help recruit a more diverse staff since the company is trying to improve," the post explained. "I feel like they're mad that I said the quiet part out loud at the recruiting event... But it was a honest answer to the question, and I keep on being brought to these things for my 'unique perspective' and whatnot."

The woman wrote that she thought perhaps the company saw what they were doing as something good and that they might see her as trying to ruin their attempt at diversifying their applicant pool.

"AITA for what I said about my job?" she asked at the end of the post.

Many users sided with the woman saying it was not okay that her company was tokenizing her because she was one of two female employees. Others even recommended seeing if she has a strong discrimination case since she was singled out for her gender.

"They don't want diversity, and they won't ever get it, because they're not setting up anything like the right space for it," one user commented. "What they want is a checkmark. Good on OP for speaking honestly and sparing that woman the pain of this place!"

"What are they gonna do? Risk a gender discrimination lawsuit by punishing you over this?" another user asked. "I'd go into that meeting with a lawyer on speed dial if I were you."

"NTA, you're 100% right that's tokenism. Would have been better not to say it infront of the manager but imo it's way better to be upfront with applicants," another comment read.

The user went on to explain that there is a photo of them from a project they barely worked on that their alma mater still uses for marketing materials nearly a decade later.

"I hate it. I felt like it detracted from all my actual accomplishments while I was in school," the user continued.

One way for a company to combat tokenism is to ensure specific employees are not called to be representative of the company's diversity efforts. It is important that an individual is not asked to represent their entire group for the organization.

Newsweek reached out to u/tokengirlengineer but did not hear back in time for publication.

Women in tech
A woman went viral after revealing on Reddit that she felt tokenized at the tech company she works for. Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images