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Rebranding engineering for women: choose your favourite campaign

Image credit: Arup, BECHTEL

Which of these campaign concepts is most likely to encourage women to choose an engineering career?

E&T has been looking at many of the aspects around women in engineering. In particular, there has been an emphasis on the low numbers, but also the successes of the few that are proving that there is no need for engineering to be regarded as a man’s world.

We asked seven creative ad agencies to take a fresh look at how they might promote engineering to young women. The agencies then produced the following campaigns: we invited readers to choose their favourites.

View the results of our online poll

You can also join in the conversation online with E&T on Twitter using the hashtag #9PercentIsNotEnough.

Rebranding engineering for women

Get a job as a chief engineer of saving children’s lives

Aparna Bangur and Verity Wheatley, The Specialist Works (TSW):

“I think women are more attracted by the element of social good [in engineering]. With our campaigns, we think in terms of ‘how’, ‘what’ and ‘why’ a brand is doing something. The ‘why’ sets you apart. It is so important. So we wanted to show the products of engineering in our campaign – these are products which change lives.”

Invented by a man

Anne-Sophie Guerin and Jen Ross, Brothers and Sisters

“We discovered that there are so many different job titles in engineering. It was fascinating for both of us. The fact that a guy invented the tampon is bizarre and ridiculous. With this ad, we wanted to create something girls can relate to but also that’s arresting for men. We went against normal forms of ‘teen’ advertising. We wanted something with a bit of attitude and which would spark conversation. We wanted to make it appealing to a younger audience, something bold and angry. The words ‘invented by a man’ were actually created by dipping a tampon in paint and writing with it. We chose blue paint that pops out – not stereotypical pink, as you’ll find with most tampon ads, which is a bit sickening sometimes. Teenagers are very aware of advertising, but at the same time they ignore it. You have to be very honest. That’s why we wanted to do something disruptive.”

100% - 91%

Elin Jarlstrom and Fiona Tabastot, Leo Burnett

“We played around a little bit with the fact of only nine per cent of engineers being female. My partner and I are junior still and we had a big passion – it might sound corny – to make the world a better place through advertising. Some can be cynical about big brands. But we were keen to get involved in a project like this, around solving a problem that can make a change in the world. Yes, in advertising, we sell things. But this kind of work gives you energy. Advertising has a lot of power. We are selling things in advertising, yes, but I think there is an opportunity too. If we can influence people to do something good it can make a change. So, we played around with that nine per cent stat. What does it mean? How does it make you feel? It’s an easy sum, but this is the biggest problem in engineering. This is the twist in its tail; that’s the friction. And while there’s obviously more to engineering than maths, it’s a big part of it.”

Pulling Dolly to bits

Sean Kinmont, 23red

“We are trying to motivate younger women, to get back to what engineering really is. And we are trying to get back to that point when biases aren’t so ingrained, in childhood. It’s about when you’re younger and biases don’t get in the way. It’s meant to be aspirational. I think young girls are just as prone to pulling things apart, to curiosity, as boys. So we thought we’d use a distinctly girly toy, something which is in itself a stereotype. And then it’s about tearing apart that stereotype. We considered whether we were reinforcing it but that’s a reality, that only nine per cent of engineers are female. That’s quite a complex challenge. This ad is about showing engineering as curiosity. It’s not enough just to highlight the bias or the myth. You have to provide some positive reinforcement and be motivational.”

Men engineered the Titanic

Joanna Legg, LIDA

“I started off doing some research. And I found that Stephanie Kwolek invented Kevlar, a material used in bullet-proof vests. And another woman engineer, Maria Beasly, invented the life raft. Men and women have a different approach and I wanted to create something that would prompt people to think about the benefits of diversity. We were aiming for something simple and thought provoking. Diversity is such a hot topic. Here in my industry, creatives are only 20 per cent female. So it’s a massive problem in advertising, too. But this is not just an issue about men and women. All sorts of diversity can only be a good thing. Research has shown that diverse workforces do better work, are more productive and make more money.”

Engineering isn’t just about nails

Seb Hill and Lianne Rivett, BBD Perfect Storm

“We tried not to be patronising. These things shouldn’t feel specific to one gender. It’s about challenging perceptions as a whole. Engineering and technology is a way to make the world better. It’s all about challenging perceptions and elevating it to a higher purpose. People are more sceptical and cynical of brands now. This campaign is all about the world around you and looking beyond the surface of products. We thought of using augmented reality too, because younger age groups are on social media to be entertained and some things make it more interactive. A lot of perception-busting work is also about trying to get someone to relate to something on their own terms.”

If you don’t shape the future, a man will

Jo Tanner, DUKE

“I have 12- and 15-year-old girls. I can see these posters or ads on a school board. The controversial element may not be a bad thing. There would be some sniggering. But at least it would get talked about. These concepts aim to stir debate, with the idea being that if you don’t get into [engineering], men will shape your future. We are getting the message across in a heavy-handed way but I think the best advertising is polarising. You get people talking about it.”

 
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