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Competition for girls in STEM won by… a boy

By WITW Staff on February 29, 2016

A British company, EDF Energy, has come under fire after their competition designed to encourage girls’ interest in the field of science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) was won by a 13-year old boy. The concept of the competition, awkwardly named Pretty Curious, was for young girls to come up with an idea for a “connected bedroom home product.” According to the BBC, the contest — while still aimed at girls — was later opened up to boys as well, in the “interests of fairness,” and received a couple of hundred entries. After five finalists were selected by judges, however, the public voted for the first prize to go to 13-year old Joshua, whose video-game controller which “harnesses kinetic energy from thumb action using wind-up triggers.” Three out of four runners-up were girls, who had come up with ideas like a smart fridge system and sleep-monitoring device.

The company defended itself from criticism on Twitter saying that while “the aim of #PrettyCurious was to encourage girls into #STEM, the #PrettyCuriousChallenge was a gender-neutral competition.” Several people weren’t having that explanation, however: “I’d love to hear from EDF how the winning solution meets their stated aim for the competition,” computer scientist Dr. Sue Black told the BBC. “It is taking me a bit of time to work out how this result will change girls’ perceptions of STEM.” Suw Charman-Anderson, founder of Ada Lovelace Day, which celebrates women in STEM took, issue with the campaign as a whole, pointing out that the name of the competition itself was demeaning to girls: “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.”

Read the full story at BBC