IBM’s #HackAHairDryer tweet fail completely misses the point (updated)

7 Dec 2015

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.”

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.



Update 16:27 07/12/2015:

IBM has since responded to on Twitter to say that it misjudged the reaction to the campaign and has now discontinued it.

Woman uncomfortable with hair dryer image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic