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.
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- EDF energy faces backlash after ill-advised egalitarian approach to encouraging children into STEM - February 29, 2016