Microsoft Apologizes For Stereotyping ‘Older Women Can’t Use Computers’

Stereotyping always encompasses the danger of offending people, because generalisations about certain groups never describe individuals within those groups correctly. Unfortunately stereotypes are a common stylistic device in ads, even if companies should already have learnt their lessons from bad examples and online protests by clients. But even if they are working for a long existing global player like Microsoft, marketing experts sometimes demonstrate low abilities of foresight and sensitivity. The IT-giant needed to apologize for a campaign presenting a best aged woman and relating her to lower computer skills.

The ad was meant to prove the ease of use of Microsoft Azure, a cloud platform. The underlying cliché is a very commonly encountered form of condescension according to the page “Geek Feminism Wiki”. The blog lists examples for ads or manuals based on the principle “So simple, even your (grand)mother could do it.” It was second time Microsoft Azure was related to doubtful marketing. At the Norwegian Developers Conference (NDC) in 2012 Windows Azure was accompanied by dancing ladies, singing a sexist song that immediately led to vicarious embarrassment within the audience and another excuse by Microsoft a few days later. This time Microsoft excused for the branding and the poor judgement it showed. Not only the 24% female Microsoft employees hope the company takes this as a last warning shot and will care for a clever and balanced publicity in future.