IBM's Plea for Gender Parity ... in an Ad From 1985

A previous decade called. It would like its cause back. 

The January 1985 issue of The Atlantic Monthly offered its readers an assortment of wonders. A cover story on "Theaterphobia"—a moviegoer's experience on Broadway—penned by one David Denby. A humor piece by Patricia Marx titled, cheekily, "Getting Along With Russians." A literary take on the complexities of E.M. Forster, and of Degas, and of Matisse.

And that was just the journalism. There were also the ads. Oh, such ads! Ads for cars ("there is a special feel in an Oldsmobile"). Ads for cigarettes (Marlboro/ Merit/Carlton) featuring horses and bold claims regarding tar levels and, in one particularly awesome instance, a surly-looking sea captain. Ads for delights both physical (NordicTrak cross-country ski machine!) and intellectual (Book of the Month Club!). 

And then there's the ad above, unearthed and de-archived by our own Chris Heller, which stands out from the others in one particularly notable way: It isn't, actually, terribly dated. It feels, actually, quite contemporary. It's for IBM, one of those pitching-products-without-actually-pitching-products kinds of ads, and it complains about a problem that is just as relevant today as it was in 1985: the dearth of women in engineering jobs. 

As the ad puts it: 

Only 4 percent of all engineers are women. 

Only 13.6 percent of all math and science Ph.D's are women. 

And an encouraging, but still low, 31.3 percent of all professional computer programmers are women. 

In the past ten years, IBM has supported more than 90 programs designed to strengthen women's skills in these and other areas. This support includes small grants for pre-college programs in engineering, major grants for science programs at leading women's colleges, and grants for doctoral fellowships in physics, computer science, mathematics, chemistry, engineering, and materials science. 

We intend to keep supporting programs like these. 

Because we all have a lot to gain with men and women on equal footing.

In other words: 1985 called. It wants its cause back. 

Presented by

Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic.

Why Is Google Making Human Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors at a world-class life sciences lab are trying to change the way people think about their health.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Videos

Why Is Google Making Human Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Technology

Just In