Last week, I thought the media had two low points for women. One, Miss Ohio saying Pretty Woman shows a positive role model for women. Two, The New York Times erasing female programmers from history. In case you missed it, NYT opened an article about Ellen Pao, a partner at a venture capital firm who is suing her company for sexual harassment, with the sentence “MEN invented the Internet.” I am not alone in being disturbed by this, and my favorite response is by Xeni Jardin.
I bring this up because the whole issue of people with a Y chromosome inventing the Internet single-handedly reminded me of a recent Best Buy commercial that similarly disturbs me.
The commercial shows a few people with a Y chromosome stating their contributions to smartphones and ends with a blond with no Y chromosome inviting you to find your ideal smartphone at Best Buy. Before, I couldn’t put my finger on the reason why I didn’t like the commercial, but now I realize that the commercial is also erasing female developers.
I can understand what Best Buy meant to do with the commercial. Seeing people who have created amazing things is meant to be inspiring. Best Buy is presented as a place that gives us access to these marvels. But I am not inspired by this commercial. Instead, I am disappointed that Best Buy is perpetuating the myth that only people with a Y chromosome have the talent to create technology.
It may not seem like a big deal, because people obviously know that there are women in tech… right? But it is a big deal because the media, advertising included, shapes how we see the world. Case in point, when I brought it up to my boyfriend, who is a software developer, he told me that if only 1 in 100 programmers are women (his estimate, not an accurate statistic), then I can’t expect Best Buy to go out of their way to include a female developer in their commercial. In other words, it’s okay for women to be invisible because in that field they are pretty much non-existent. Except they are not.
I know that in most cases the role of advertising is not to change the world. It is to build brands. But I think that challenging the status quo when it comes to the visibility of women in certain fields would shine a positive light on brands. It would score points with women who feel they are no longer ignored.
Do you think brands can benefit from challenging the status quo?