Target: Lowell C. McAdam, CEO of Verizon
Goal: Thank Verizon for acknowledging and taking a stand against sexism in math- and science-related fields
According to Verizon, “80% of jobs in the next decade will require technology skills.” However, women remain vastly underrepresented in science- and technology-related fields. A new commercial from Verizon tackles the gender stereotypes that often discourage girls and women from pursuing interests and careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and encourages its consumers to shift their attitudes regarding gender and STEM fields.
Verizon’s new “Pretty Brilliant” ad follows a girl, Sam, from her toddler to pre-teen years. As a young child, Sam shows an interest in nature, wading through streams and exploring tide pools at the beach, only to be gently scolded by her mother (“Sammy, sweetie, don’t get your dress dirty!”) and discouraged by her father. (“Sam, honey, you don’t want to mess with that,” he says as she picks up a starfish. “Let’s put him down.”) When she gets older, she is reprimanded for taking a project on the solar system too far (“This project has gotten out of control,” her mother says as Sam hangs Styrofoam planets from her bedroom ceiling) and for using power tools (“Hand that to your brother,” her dad tells her). By the end of the ad, Sam turns away from a poster advertising a science fair to put on more lip gloss.
The ad is perhaps a little on-the-nose with its resolution, but it is important for the fact that it exposes how even subtle sexism can discourage girls and women from pursuing STEM careers. Neither of Sam’s parents seems to be a repressive, sexist monster. They clearly love their daughter. Neither one of them tells her “Girls can’t do math” or “Girls can’t be scientists.” By highlighting how subtle and ingrained sexist ideas can be, Verizon’s ad encourages its viewers to examine their own words and actions.
According to Verizon’s ad, 66 percent of girls in fourth grade say they like math and science, but only 18 percent of college engineering majors are female. The disparity between those numbers is far too great, and it is encouraging to see a major tech company like Verizon taking steps to address the issue. Sign the petition and thank Verizon for recognizing and working to combat sexism in STEM industries.
Dear Mr. McAdam,
Sexism is one of the major issues facing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) -related fields today, but it is often swept under the rug or dismissed as not being an “important enough” issue. With that in mind, I would like to thank you for Verizon’s recent “Pretty Brilliant” ad slot, which acknowledges the challenges women and girls in STEM fields face and works to combat the subtle sexism and stereotypes that discourage women and girls from pursuing STEM interests. It is truly heartening to see a tech giant like Verizon taking steps to address and solve this pervasive issue, and I commend you for your work on this topic.
While an advertisement like this reaches many people and is a good way to start conversations, it is not enough to fix the sexism so often found in STEM industries. It’s great to see that the Verizon Foundation is working to encourage girls and young women to get involved in STEM fields, and I would like to encourage you to do even more with this. Another ad slot, perhaps one that highlights the work the Verizon Foundation does and offers ways to get involved, could encourage more people to help in the fight against sexism in STEM fields.
The “Pretty Brilliant” campaign is an excellent beginning, but it is just that–a beginning. I urge Verizon to continue its work to promote gender equality in tech fields and raise awareness about the detrimental effects of even the subtlest sexism.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: John Flinchbaugh via Flickr