Add Microsoft to the list of companies touting support for young girls who like science and engineering.
The tech giant celebrated International Women's Day on Sunday, and Women's History Month generally, with a moving spot from m:united that starts with great footage of girls talking about why they love science, and what they've accomplished with it—then taking a turn into the familiar, heartbreaking theme that inventing is actually for boys.
It's noteworthy that one interviewee blames commercials for reinforcing the stereotype (even if the inclusion of that point in an ad comes across as a bit of a humblebrag from the brand). In fact, the importance of the overall message makes it a little frustrating that it includes details like a smarmily named email address firstname.lastname@example.org that girls should apparently use to contact the company (aimed at all the job-hunting 10-year-olds, assuming they have to finish high school and college first?).
Shots of the girls, meanwhile, receiving encouraging letters from Microsoft also come across as a little meager and clumsy. It would be more compelling if Microsoft would stay out of its own way and just focus on the bigger theme. Or if it has to grandstand about the good it's doing, then make the gift more substantial—e.g., devote resources to helping these girls cultivate their interests, and talk about that.
To be fair, the video's YouTube description does link to DigiGirlz, a tech careers program Microsoft runs for high school girls, and importantly, a note to the email address above returns a form letter that promises further contact from a woman working at the company, and includes links to other programs, including Girls Who Code, which Microsoft sponsors.
In other words, while it's a good start that the brand is telling girls that STEM careers are viable and desirable, it's worth remembering the whole concept is also corporate imaging aimed at ameliorating a more immediate, significant blemish for the company (which, as of October, reported a tech workforce that was about 17 percent women) and the industry as a whole. (Apple was at 20 percent, and Google 17 percent.) Plus, there was that whole debacle with Microsoft's CEO promoting, then quickly backpedaling on, the absurd idea that women shouldn't ask for raises.
In fact, in perhaps the ad's most telling moment, one of the girls basically tells Microsoft to get real, she's just a kid—but, yeah OK, maybe someday she'll work for them. And while ultimately she concedes it's cool they even wrote her a letter, you can almost hear the creative team prompting her to say so. Plus, it probably really is nice to get some supportive words from Microsoft, but seriously … it's not like it's Apple.
Global Executive Creative Officer: Andy Azula
Global Executive Creative Officer: John Mescall
Executive Creative Director: Priti Kapur
Senior Vice President, Group Creative Director: Daniela Vojta
Director of Creative Technology: David Cliff
Director of Integrated Production: Aaron Kovan
Executive Producer: Carolyn Johnson
Interactive Producer: Rick Segal
Music Producer: Michael Ladman
President: John Dunleavy
Managing Director: Kevin Nelson
Group Account Director: Jason Kolinsky
Account Supervisor: Nayeli Valentinez
Director: Noah David Smith @ Helicopter Pictures
Editor: Aaron Langley @ Cosmo Street
Audio Mix: Paul Weiss @ Sonic Union
Music: "First (master)"
Composer: Matt Abeysekera @ SCORE A SCORE