IBM Drops Hairdryer
Written by Kay Ewbank   
Thursday, 10 December 2015

IBM has dropped its #HackAHairDryer campaign introduced to attract more women to technology.

The campaign has been running for a couple of months, but had been mainly ignored. It featured a video with the aim of:

"reengineering misperceptions about women in tech, and to focus on what really matters in science".

So far, so good.

Where it all went horribly wrong was that the video asked women working in science and tech to "hack a hair dryer", then share their work on the IBM website.


 Yep, you did read that correctly. The way women should show they're equally as good as men in science and tech is to change the way their hairdryer works. Presumably before baking a batch of biscuits and knitting themselves a motherboard.




The video was posted on YouTube and languished without much attention until Monday, when it began trending on Twitter as scientists, most of them female, tweeted some less-than-positive reactions to #HackAHairDryer. The tweets mainly took the form of 'sorry, too busy building robots to hack a hairdryer', including 'Fraid I’m too busy prototyping this MIDI/SN76489 interface to mess about with hairdryers', and 'too busy making nanotech and treating cancer'.

One of the most popular tweets was by engineer and rocket scientist Stephanie Evans, who tweeted:

"That's OK @IBM, I'd rather build satellites instead, but good luck with that whole #HackAHairDryer thing"

My personal favorite was by @minxdragon, who tweeted:

"Sorry @IBM i’m too busy working on lipstick chemistry and writing down formulae with little hearts over the i s to #HackAHairDryer"





IBM apologized on Twitter, explaining:

"Thanks for the feedback on our campaign. We heard you and we apologize for missing the mark. We promise to do better in the future."

The original video has been removed.

While the campaign did indeed miss the mark and (I suspect) annoy just about all women working in STEM, it raises an interesting problem. There's still a tendency for young women to reject careers in STEM because they see it as lacking anything to attract them.

So is there anything you could do as a light-hearted campaign to make a 'non-techie' young woman consider STEM, without irritating those of us who are? 



More Information

IBM's STEM scheme

Girls Who Code

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Google's Push To Attract Girls To Programming - Good Or Misguided


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Last Updated ( Thursday, 10 December 2015 )