I just watched the new Verizon commercial, "Inspire Her Mind." And the message – that many young girls show an apptitude for science and math and engineering but often are discouraged from pursuing it ("You'll get your dress dirty." "Be careful with that! Why don't you hand that to your brother?") – is a worthy one.
Verizon, through its Verizon Foundation, has a strong focus in promoting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) pursuits for elementary-school age and teenaged girls. As the Verizon ad points out, 66 percent of fourth grade girls say they like science and math, but only 18 percent of college engineering majors are women.
A section on the Verizon web site is dedicated to the concept of "Inspire Her Mind," noting that 80 percent of jobs in the next decade will require technology skills, while women currently hold less than 25 percent of the STEM jobs in the United States. The campaign urges: "Working together, let's encourage more girls to pursue careers that solve the immense challenges of our future."
However, an observant (female) reader pointed something out to me: at the 31-second mark in the commercial, you will see a pair of teenage kids using a power drill without safety glasses and without hearing protection, their faces close to the plastic model they're drilling, close enough to suffer a debilitating eye injury or blindness.
"Is this something you can write about?" our reader asked. "Like, why didn't the ad agency research the use of power tools while planning such an ad?"
As someone who has looked at a lot of ads for SAFETY EQUIPMENT manufacturers and seen more than a few unsafe acts being perpetrated in their ads, I have to say, "I don't know."
I guess I don't expect Verizon executives to look at a commercial about empowering girls to study science and math and think, "We've got to reshoot. Those kids need PPE!" And because of some of the ads I've seen in the pages of EHS Today that show acts that could be intepreted as unsafe, I know that even some of the ad agencies for safety equipment manufacturers don't bother to reinforce the use of proper PPE.
And I know that laboratories (where all those scientists hang out) can be fairly unsafe workplaces with sometimes deadly potential exposures. (See "CDC Staffers Possibly Exposed to Anthrax Because of Safety Lapses.")
But isn't it time we got all of those articulate people at ad agencies and all those "smart" people in STEM professions together and talking about safety? Talking to their kids about PPE and off-the-job injuries? Talking to their neighbors and coworkers about the use of safety glasses and hearing protection and, even, things like fall protection and ladder safety?
I loved the message about encouraging girls to study math and science. I loved the Verizon web pages devoted to sharing the stories of women in STEM jobs and what inspired them to study science, coding, engineering and math. I just wish it had taken the message one step further.
After all, safety is a science, and plenty of engineering goes into the daily task of keeping workers safe. While the Verizon commercial was 60 seconds of inspired advertising, it could have been so much more.