We Look Like Professors, Too

Sara B. Pritchard, Adeline Koh and Michelle Moravec describe rationale behind new hashtag to remind the world of the diversity of faculty members.

August 10, 2015

OneLogin’s recent recruitment campaign showing diverse engineers on billboards in the San Francisco Bay Area inspired a viral hashtag: #ILookLikeAnEngineer.

Frustrated by the microaggressions we experience as “nontraditional” faculty, we started a new hashtag: #ILookLikeAProfessor. The flurry of photos, retweets and horror stories since last Thursday suggests that we are not alone in experiencing entrenched stereotypes and bias -- both subtle and explicit.

  • The female professor mistaken for an undergraduate. She was grading homework, not doing it.
  • Male teaching assistants assumed to be the professor.
  • Faculty members of color assumed to be the custodian.
  • Asian professors assumed to be Chinese food delivery drivers.

We are not making this up.

These are real posts from real people -- real professors in diverse fields across the United States -- who do not fit the stereotype of a 60-something, white male professor, usually in tie and tweed. Extra credit if glasses and a beard came to mind.

With the start of the new academic year just around the corner, it’s worth remembering how much the professoriate has changed over the past half century. The civil rights movement, feminism, gay rights, the Americans With Disabilities Act and more transformed many aspects of society, including the academy. It’s time for our assumptions about faculty to catch up with reality.

So, who are we?

We are economists and art historians, musicians and engineers, chemists and sociologists, poets and mathematicians.

We are black, brown and white -- and every shade in between.

We come in all shapes, sizes and proportions.

We are feminine, masculine and androgynous -- and sometimes we look different one day to the next.

We are queer, straight and questioning.

We speak many languages, and some of us have accents.

We have voices high and low, loud and soft.

We wear suits and jeans, hiking boots and high heels.

We have dreads and dyed hair -- and yes, some of us do have beards.

We wear glasses and contacts, ties and scarves, kipot and hijabs.

We have earrings, tattoos and piercings -- only some of which you can see.

We are partnered and single, parents and child-free, caregivers and neighbors.

We are Christian and atheist, Muslim and Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist, pagan and agnostic.

We are athletes and bookworms, hikers and artists, musicians and chefs, gardeners and dog walkers.

In other words, we look just like you.

We look like professors because we are professors. It’s long past time that we ditch the stereotype.


Sara B. Pritchard (@SaraBPritchard) is associate professor of science and technology studies at Cornell University and a Public Voices Fellow at the Op-Ed Project.

Adeline Koh (@adelinekoh) is a director of a digital humanities center at Stockton University and associate professor of literature there.

Michelle Moravec (@professmoravec) is associate professor of history at Rosemont College.

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