The social media managers over at IBM appear to have wildly miscalculated the public’s reaction to its aim of increasing the number of women in tech by asking women to #HackAHairDryer.
In a sense, you have to feel rather sorry for IBM, as it’s clear that they had good intentions with the #womenintech campaign they are promoting on Twitter in an effort to narrow the diversity gap, but using a product that is almost exclusively used by women and is solely appearance-based is a baffling decision.
As part of the campaign, IBM asked women working in STEM backgrounds, or who want to work in STEM backgrounds, to ‘hack a hairdryer’ in order to “reengineer what matters in #science”.
With an accompanying video showing women engineers dismantling a common hairdryer and turning it into a whole new thing, the video’s voiceover says: “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-route airflow, reinvent sound, and imagine a future where the most brilliant minds are solving the world’s biggest problems regardless of your gender.”
— IBM (@IBM) December 4, 2015
Rather worryingly for IBM, however, its hopes of generating a whole range of positive tweets using the #HackAHairDryer hashtag were not to be, as it is now being used by women engineers as a stick with which to beat the company for using a product that is so gender-stereotyped.
IBM are not the first, and certainly not the last, to spark controversy over a poorly-thought out social media campaign to promote diversity in business. Regardless, the tweets posted by women are surely making IBM’s media managers wince.
— Sue Black (@Dr_Black) December 7, 2015
— Artisan GIF-maker (@amanicdroid) December 7, 2015
— That Nubi∆n Gwera (@whoisGwera) December 7, 2015
— Brendan (@AtomicPlayb0y) December 7, 2015
Update 16:27 07/12/2015:
IBM has since responded to Siliconrepublic.com on Twitter to say that it misjudged the reaction to the campaign and has now discontinued it.
@siliconrepublic This was part of a larger campaign to promote STEM careers. It missed the mark and we apologize. It is being discontinued.
— IBM (@IBM) December 7, 2015
Woman uncomfortable with hair dryer image via Shutterstock