IBM’s “Hack a Hair Dryer” campaign has backfired. The company apologized this week for what some call a sexist and patronizing ad, and ended the marketing push.
“Hack a Hair Dryer” was a concept designed to encourage girls to “dissolve the stigma” that STEM jobs are just for men.
But to get its point across, IBM created an almost two-minute long video centered around hair dryers — which essentially perpetuated another stereotype.
“Less than three in 10 science and engineering jobs are held by women,” the video begins. “That’s weird. Because innovation doesn’t know what you look like. Innovation doesn’t care where you’re from.”
The rest of the ad is filled with scenes where girls use hair dryers for science fair-esque projects. At the same time, a narrator uses pun-heavy language like “blow away the misperception” and “blast through the bias.”
The video ad launched in October, but only gained attention this week. IBM removed the YouTube and Facebook videos, and related social media posts after outcry erupted online.
Some of the most-shared criticisms were created by female scientists and engineers who mocked the company with their achievements.
“I code. But it’s to mess around with salamander DNA sequences, not hair dryers,” said Cathy Newman, a biology PhD student.
“That’s ok @IBM, I’d rather build satellites instead, but good luck with that whole #HackAHairDryer thing,” Stephanie Evans, a rocket scientist, wrote.
An IBM spokeswoman told CNNMoney that the video ad never aired on TV.
“The videos were part of a larger campaign to promote STEM careers,” she said in an email statement. “It missed the mark for some and we apologize. It is being discontinued.”
Companies like IBM have been making more of an effort to not only hire more women into tech roles, but also support public and private efforts to teach kids how to code to fix the “pipeline” problem.
Overall, Silicon Valley has become more transparent about its workforce in the past few years, and but almost all the reports show that women make up a small percentage of engineering and executive jobs.