Shampoo, Sexism in the Workplace and Tech

A few days ago, a friend shared a link to a local ad for the Pantene shampoo line (1). A very surprising move that a for local audience, the ad agency (2) went for a clever and subtle way to get a very touchy issue across rather than the usual song-and-dance or celebrity endorsements. I haven’t actually seen it on air, but there is hope in Philippine TV Land after all!



While the ad focused on the general workplace and the traditional role of women in families, they missed out the other negative stereotypes women face in a generally male-dominated industry such as IT and engineering. These industries are still considered an all boys club, despite the push to get girls into tech (only in the US).

Recently, Mr. Paul Graham of Y Combinator highlighted a very interesting issue: that young boys will be more interested in programming than girls their age (3).  This has some truth in it although I can’t find proper statistics to back the statement up (the government (4) doesn’t seem to find gender imbalance as an issue), I can only give a subjective analysis.

When I was young, I was told that building an RC Car wasn’t for girls. In high school I’ve been called geek, weird and simply not-a-girl; but to be fair I was pretty weird. Its been generally an uncomfortable experience playing in an arcade and looking at, buying or inquiring about computer equipment or hardware. In a freshman block section with 40 CS students 12 of us were female; a little more than half of us graduated in the same course. When I was still teaching, the yearly trend of having a 1:4 female to male ratio is a pretty close approximation based on observation. A laboratory group of all girls has a large possibility of finishing an activity last while (more often than not) only boys will be doing the actual work in a group with only one girl as a member.

Sexist labels don’t materialize in the workplace. Its nice that shampoo can send a message across, but in the end, are we doing everything we can to change it?

Intelligent commercials that show strong, shiny and well behaved hair is a plus.

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