Science, technology, math and engineering fields suffer from a troubling gender gap, many experts argue. The European Commission (EC), for example, reports that fewer than 32% of Europe's career researchers are women. But the EC is taking a lot of flak for its latest attempt to close that gap, a campaign launched on Thursday called "Science: It's a Girl Thing." While the campaign Web site is fairly innocuous, an associated 53-second trailer is drawing some angry criticism.
The video opens with three female models strutting into the frame in high heels and short skirts. A male scientist watching them from behind his microscope doesn't seem to mind that none of them are wearing safe lab attire—he just pops his glasses on for a better look. The rest of the video is a mish-mash of heels, nail polish, lipstick, and sexily smoldering Erlenmeyer flasks, arbitrarily punctuated by girly giggles.
The video is so chock-full of clichés that viewers might be forgiven for thinking it a parody. It certainly bears more than a few similarities to this Saturday Night Live sketch. But alas, according to a tweet from Michael Jennings, the EC's spokesperson for research, innovation and science, it's very real: "Commission doesn't really do irony."