IBM’s #HackAHairdryer Campaign Aimed At Women Sparks Outrage

It was well-meaning, but hasn't been well-received

IBM's #HackAHairdryer Campaign Aimed At Women Sparks Outrage

by Lauren Smith |
Published on

In a sort of well-intentioned, but maybe badly-executed move, IBM have been criticised over their campaign encouraging women to hack a hairdryer to encourage more women to apply for jobs within the science and engineering sectors.

A tweet sent out by the company encourages women in tech to hack a hairdryer in order to ‘re-enigineer what matters in science’.

Although the campaign video, with this slogan ‘Girls don't like science?, Women can’t code? Only men wear lab coats?’ was attempting to break down barriers, #HackAHairdryer was trending on Twitter mostly because users complained it was patronising and demeaning using a beauty product for the initiative – saying it implied that this is all women were capable of.

One user wrote, ‘Perhaps there’s scope to “disrupt” the hairdryer but @IBM #womenintech could probably handle hacking a non-beauty product too,’ while another added, ‘You won’t attract girls to STEM by pandering to them. Girls already like science. Problem is, science doesn’t like ’ Some acknowledged that the campaign might be ironic, rather than sexist, but that the campaign still ‘trivialises science’.

The outrage brings the EDF campaign ‘Pretty Curious’ to mind, an initiative that aimed to get more young girls into science and engineering. Twitter users complained that the name sounded like a ‘celebrity perfume line’ and Emily Schoerning, Director of Community Organising and Research at the National Centre for Science Education, said, ‘I hate this presumption that STEM stuff needs to be “girlified” to appeal to women...This strategy appears to show interest in girls and women while in fact making sure we wear a nice pink badge at all times, drawing attention to our gender over and above our achievements as human beings.’

In Science and Engineering, less than 3 in 10 positions are held by women. Baroness Martha Lane Fox (who founded has previously spoken out about the lack of equality in the tech sector.

‘All that’s happened is that one bunch of very rich white men have transferred their money to another bunch of very rich white men and, worse than that, they are in a very small concentrated area of the world, in Silicon Valley... I still find that really baffling. The absence of women from the teams that are making the internet, the product designers, the coders, the engineers, the absence of women in the venture capital community.’

Give the lack of gender equality in these sectors, are campaigns like IBM’s worse than doing nothing at all? Let us know on Twitter and


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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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