A pretty big diversity disaster

SUMMARY:

What starts as a pretty well-intentioned diversity campaign ends up a pretty appalling piece of PR ineptitude. Well done, EDF!

edf campaignWhy aren’t more girls pursuing science? asks EDF.

The energy giant is behind a campaign to encourage more girls to go into STEM – science, technology, engineering, and maths – careers.

The campaign’s website says it’s designed to inspire girls’ curiosity in these subjects, and it makes the point that only one in seven adults who work in STEM is female, which is staggering.

On the surface, then, an excellent campaign to target and inspire girls, and one that’s designed to tackle a serious problem in society: how to get more females interested in science and technology.

And this from a company, EDF, that’s also made some exemplary statements about diversity and inclusion. So far, so good.

But EDF really needs to have a word with its PR people…

For reasons best known to its designers, the campaign is called ‘Pretty Curious’ and it’s spearheaded by some expensive-looking, but rather creepy, promos – like this one:

The videos open with a series of clothing catalogue/library-style shots of different girls looking straight into camera, with each one captioned “I’m pretty”.

Eventually, words like ‘curious’, ‘inventive’, ‘determined’, ‘intrigued’, and ‘focused’ fade in after ‘I’m pretty…’, and the promos make their clumsy point: each young person is pretty curious about robotics, astronomy, or particle physics, geddit?

And EDF is pretty serious about redressing the gender imbalance – as it should be. A pun-tastic message so badly conceived that it beggars belief.

Some questions for EDF:

  • Why focus on the word ‘pretty’ at all?
  • Why are all the girls depicted as passive observers, rather than actively engaged in science?
  • And why is the pretty focused girl in the video-grab, above, gazing at the camera while putting her hair behind her ear – rather than, say, looking through the telescope at the stars?

I understand that this is a well-intentioned campaign, and that the videos are targeted at school-age girls in today’s selfie culture (hey, you can be clever as well as pretty!).

The aim is presumably to subvert any preconceptions viewers might have that girls should be physically attractive, rather than, say, intelligent, skilled, strong, confident, talented, independent, inquisitive, or ambitious.

(Not that a human being can’t be those things and photogenic, of course, just as you can be all those things and not have a modelling contract.)

The problem is that the execution of the idea is… well, pretty weird, frankly.

It’s as if the whole thing was dreamt up in 1963 by Mad Men‘s Pete Campbell, while swigging his tenth bourbon and leering at his secretary.

But this isn’t the only cockup of the campaign.

The ‘Pretty Curious Challenge’ set out to find the best new science/tech product idea submitted to EDF by one of those many curious/inventive/determined girls that the campaign is designed to reach.

The prize was won by a boy called Joshua, who receives an iPad and a day out at a science fair. Well done, everyone!

My take

Better work in encouraging girls and women to pursue scientific careers is being done by people like Dr. Sue Black, and others. Do check out her blog 

Image credit - Main image via EDF campaign