IBM pulls #HackAHairDryer campaign admitting it 'missed the mark'

IBM has discontinued a campaign encouraging women to get into technology by asking them to “hack a hairdryer” after widespread criticism from women in the industry.

The company admitted the campaign “missed the mark for some” and apologised.

The campaign, which dated back to October and was part of a wider effort by the company to promote STEM careers, called on women in science and technology to “reengineer what matters in science”.

A video posted on IBM’s YouTube account showed a number of experiments involving hairdryers as a voiceover encourages women to take part:

You, a windblaster and an idea, repurposed for a larger purpose, to support those who believe that it’s not what covers your cranium that counts, but what’s in it. So hack heat, re-reoute airflow, reinvent sound, and imagine a future where the most brilliant minds are solving the world’s biggest problems regardless of your gender.

While seemingly well-intentioned, the campaign backfired after IBM sent some tweets re-advertising it on Friday 4 December. Women working in STEM professions showed their disapproval for #HackAHairDryer by tweeting what they actually do in their day-to-day working lives:

Others pointed out that the campaign misses the mark somewhat:

Then there were those who found a video of a hairdryer on fire to add to the mix:

Inevitably, the hashtag was flooded with women mocking it:

Even the London Fire Brigade had something to say:

A spokesperson for IBM said: “The videos were part of a larger campaign to promote STEM careers. It missed the mark for some and we apologise. It is being discontinued.”

According to Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE), women make up 14.4% of all people working in STEM occupations in the UK. Various campaigns have attempted to tackle the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields – and IBM’s is not the first to hit problems.

This is not the first campaign attempting to get women into tech which has backfired this year. EDF was criticised in October for a campaign named “Pretty Curious”.

Powered by article was written by Elena Cresci, for The Guardian on Monday 7th December 2015 16.16 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010