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EDF energy faces backlash after ill-advised egalitarian approach to encouraging children into STEM

EDF Energy – one of the main UK suppliers of gas and electricity – launched the #prettycurious campaign. The Pretty Curious Challenge was a social media competition for children aged 11-16 years old, asking them to submit ideas for a smart home.

During last year’s Pretty Curious programme, EDF ran a series of workshops for teen girls. But when asked whether similar events would be run for boys, this year they decided to make the competition open to all. “Ultimately we want to inspire all future talent to consider careers in STEM.”

However, this egalitarian approach may have been an error in judgement in the current climate of gender politics. With the submissions open to a public vote, the winning idea was an innovative controller that harnessed kinetic energy from the user’s thumb movements; an idea submitted by Josh – a boy.

Suw Charman-Anderson, who founded the annual celebration of women in Stem, Ada Lovelace Day was never happy with EDF’s attempt to inspire girls’ curiosity about STEM.

 “EDF Energy chose to link appearance and interest in Stem through the title of their campaign, despite many people pointing out that it was demeaning to girls,” she said.

“Rather than challenging stereotypes, the focus on girls’ looks rather than their intelligence reinforces them.

“EDF Energy have failed to understand both the nature of the problem [of women in Stem] and the negative impacts that their publicity stunt may well have on girls who took part with genuine enthusiasm and excitement.”

But now, poor Josh with his brilliant idea faces passive disapproval and outright outrage from media outlets worldwide, and some important people. Not least is Dr Sue Black OBE, an Honorary Professor in the Department of Computer Science at University College London, an associate at DSRPTN an all-female technology and digital consultancy, a mentor at Google campus for mums and founder of BCSWomen, the the UK’s first online network for women in tech, and #techmums, a social enterprise which empowers mums and their families through technology

“Congratulations to the winner – but I’d love to hear from EDF how the winning solution meets their stated aim for the competition,” Numerous other tweets from her repeated the question of how the challenge’s winner being a boy meets the stated aim of changing girls’ perceptions of STEM. When one of her fans suggested that Dr Black probably has some more choice words for EDF, “lol, I was trying to be polite” she replied. Additionally, Zoe Kleinman, a BBC journalist tweeted that it was “interesting” that a boy has won a competition aimed at attracting teenage girls to STEM.

Without delving into the feminist influence clouding STEM and evidently worming its way into British schools, fuelling division amongst young children (11-16 year olds for heaven sakes), and after tentatively applauding EDF for succumbing to calls for an egalitarian approach to engaging children (yes, children) in scientific curiosity, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate 13 year old Josh and the runners up for their brilliant ideas. I really do hope they maintain their love for science and continue to do whatever makes them happy.

Obaro E

Obaro E

In my 20s, I was a contrarian. While studying for my PhD in neuroscience, I learned to defend opinions and ideas based on empirical evidence. And on social media I would make mildly controversial arguments for entertainment and all my friends would laugh, join in, debate and have fun and we would all 'shake hands' afterwards and get on with our lives... that is until around 2012 when I argued against feminism...
Obaro E
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Obaro E

In my 20s, I was a contrarian. While studying for my PhD in neuroscience, I learned to defend opinions and ideas based on empirical evidence. And on social media I would make mildly controversial arguments for entertainment and all my friends would laugh, join in, debate and have fun and we would all 'shake hands' afterwards and get on with our lives... that is until around 2012 when I argued against feminism...

  • http://shepardofpeace.org shepardofpeace

    Oh for Pete sake

  • Brad

    And feminists wonder why people hate them. They are not interested int equality. They are Female Gender supremacists. And will harm or exclude boys to satisfy their Gender hate.

  • Zzsz

    “In my 20s, I was a contrarian”

    No you weren’t! 😉

  • Zzsz

    Reading your article, looking at the hashtag, and looking at EDF’s actual campaign, I’m afraid this is one time I’m going to have to agree with the feminists. The campaign was originally set up as a way to encourage girls into STEM fields, and while I am all for a separate prize for the boys I have to admit that they have a point. Women don’t have a big presence in STEM fields yet and the prize was a good way to encourage them to try and change that for themselves. Where I really disagree with them is the yelling about ‘sexism’ in the comments. It wasn’t sexist, and neither was the name. It was just ill advised.

    • Fake Mustache

      Well, they claim the org was set up to promote girls in STEM, but the contest itself was opened up to all genders to boost participation. Keeping in mind the UK is small in population, many events like this struggle to find participants. Not much of a contest if only 12 people enter.

      • Zzsz

        I can definitely see where you are coming from and if the contest had started up without the focus on girls I’d agree with you and this article that they are complaining about nothing (yet again). Of course none of that justifies the level of outcry…

        • http://honeybadgerbrigade.com/ Hannah Wallen

          The feminist tantrum over this might be intended to distract from the possibility that the need to expand the contest’s focus to elicit more interest in it indicates that targeting girls with initiatives to increase their interest in STEM does not work as well as feminists want it to.

          • Zzsz

            Now that is an interesting point. It’s a shame we can’t really test them to see if that is true, but it probably is on a subconscious level. Though I think the main reason here is the same one as always – they are jumping from issue to issue because they have convinced themselves they are under attack from all sides.

            Unfortunately, that’s the same motive a lot of MRAs have – though in their case it’s actually justified.

  • TheOldMan

    “Women don’t have a big presence in STEM fields …” Women do not have a big presence in the construction industry either so why not a big push there?

  • warren hardy

    so lets get this.. it was first set up for girls, then for both boys and girls, then a boy won… ?? this is for children… shows how feminists think of boys… !!!