Look What the Discovery Channel Thinks of Female Engineers

The Discovery Channel is looking for someone to host a new show about engineering (warning: Craigslist ad could vanish without warning). The ideal candidate? “[M]ale, young to late forties, edgy, adventurous, and an innovator.”

I’ll be writing them a letter as soon as I can get beyond “Oh, for fuck’s sake, what the hell is wrong with you people?”. I suggest you do the same.

[via FairerScience]

Update, 29-Mar

Here’s the reply I got from the woman on the other end of the craigslist posting:

Frankly, I don’t know why Discovery is interested in men as hosts. There channel tends to dominated by male hosts. I believe the perception is that its a “male” show.

I don’t completely follow that logic.. And hence, am considering women as well. I just can’t imagine men not wanting to watch attractive women talk mechanics and watch them blow things up. Seems about as American as Apple Pie in my opinion.

Well then! Women are okay as engineers – as long as they are also sexbots. I’m so glad that’s settled.


Trackbacks & Pings

  1. The Red Thread : Carnival of Feminists on 08 Apr 2007 at 7:04 pm

    […] What is that you ask? A carnival is where someone tries to round up the latest & greatest in a certain topic area and posts on a regular basis. This month I made it into the 35th Carnival of Feminists. Some parental highlights in this issue include: Violence against women online: “Most recently, the problem was brought into sharp focus by the case of Kathy Sierra, a female technology blogger at Creating Passionate Users. Earlier this month, she began receiving death threats and intimations of sexual violence, not only in comments on her own blog but also on other blogs.” We’ve discussed before whether or not we blog with our real names or not. I blog under my real name, it’s too hard not to these days. But I do try to keep an eye on safety. “The Discovery Channel is hiring a presenter for a show on engineering. Who’s the perfect candidate? A man. Green Gabbro takes umbrage.” A topic near and dear to me on many levels. Let’s give our girls some good role models!!”Polish politicians are trying to tighten anti-abortion laws, removing exceptions for rape, incest and cases where carrying a pregnancy to term endangers the mother’s health. […]


  1. bret wrote:

    Perhaps the show will be hosted by a pair, and they’ve already chosen the female host? (Probably not, but still, benefit of the doubt…)

  2. Lab Lemming wrote:

    Dude, they dubbed over David Attenborough.

    They obviously have no taste or clue whatsoever.

  3. yami wrote:

    And yet they are a leading producer of sciencey edutainment, and their clueless products will shape a generation of young minds. Whee!

  4. Lab Lemming wrote:

    It is interesting that they specified age as well as sex. Assuming bret’s suggestion is true, why must an age be specified?

    On a related note, can you think of any male / female TV presentation team where the female is senior to the male (in terms of age or authority)? I can’t.

  5. rss wrote:

    The ad is a hoax, right? A deft piece of guerrilla satire?

  6. astrodyke wrote:

    Please respond to the Craig’s list ad with a letter to the Discovery Channel, letting them know that discrimination sucks, and especially discrimination that reinforces the picture that only boys can be engineers.

    And if you want to report the ad to Craig’s List (ads that express a gender preference in hiring are prohibited), write to “abuse at craigslist.org”.

  7. mr x wrote:

    On the other hand…

    The Discovery Channel is Entertainment.

    I recall the words of Carol Lombard: “It’s called show BUSINESS!”

    We are not talking academia that has a moral obligation to outreach diversity. Discovery Channel is not an institution designed to effect cultural change. It is designed to make money.

    Now, that being said, suppose they have already conducted their demographics. Suppose the purpose of this show IS to outreach to girls and encourage engineering studies. Suppose their demographic study has demonstrated (not by social outrage and “feeling” but by actual market study), that the show will draw more girls to watch if it is moderated by a man?

    YOu can/may take your anger out, then on an audience of girl$/boy$ who prefer male host$. But when the day is over all that matterS is the bottom DOLLAR.

  8. yami wrote:

    Nope. Capitalism does not excuse you from your role in culture or your moral obligation to effect positive change.

  9. mr x wrote:

    I disagree.

    Capitalism is an economic condition.
    We have the right to boycott, etc.
    We have the right to manifest our morality, but capitalism has nothing to do with that.

    I would have loved to learn there was a female host. But that is me; it is me and only me.

    And I have to suspect that when it comes to entertainment, Discovery knows its business.

    I encourage my daughter to watch such shows, regardless. I would imagine that as far as the market is concerned, Discovery knows its audience is bigger if the host was male.

    If I am running a University and get state funds, I answer to the state.

    If I am running a corporation, I must obey laws the enforce diversity and equity.

    But entertainment?
    To enforce morality on the entertainment industry? I think it is a laughable waste of time — such time is better spent elsewhere.

    I cannot imagine Discovery not knowing the Nielson’s.

  10. yami wrote:

    Mr. X: You may be right from a tactical perspective that it’s better to leave entertainment alone and focus on other things – but then again, given how easy it can be to make advertisers run away from anything that looks controversial, you may be wrong.

    Tactics aside, though, media production is both a profit-seeking venture and a means of influencing culture. You appear to be arguing that 1) its profit-seeking nature means that its influence on culture is not a proper area for moral concern, or else 2) regardless of our idealistic concerns, for-profit media will always be produced without regard to morals.

    2) is overly pessimistic, I think, but 1) is bullshit.

    Incidentally, it seems the Discovery Channel weren’t the ones looking for a man (read the comment from Pat at the end of that entry). Rather than careful demographic research, it seems to have been an error introduced by some thoughtless staffer or casting company along the line.

  11. Sabine wrote:

    “Women are okay as engineers – as long as they are also sexbots.”

    No that anyone would believe an attractive woman could be a scientist anyway. I can’t count on all my fingers and toes how many times I have ever heard, “well darlin’, you sure don’t look like a geologist!!” (To which I am often tempted to reply, “well, that’s funny, because you sure don’t look like an a%&h*le…”. But that’s a whole other can of worms.

  12. mr x wrote:

    So, Yami, let me ask you…

    They tried for a female anchor about
    ten years ago (co-host with Rather -forget her name); she bombed.

    From what I gather, the new one is bombing, too… Couric! that’s right… her.

    But yet, I watch CNN, the View (not chatty these days – political) and I tell no difference between male and female anchors…

    Did the thrust on Connie Chung and Couric set women back? Did they try to force a social issue, to find that America was not ready for it?

    Is it possible that entrenched patriarchy simply must die out of its own? And that in some cases, forcing the issue does more damage?

    I would imagine that in another five years or so, with this new generation of kids, that people will simply not notice female anchors… or female engineers for that matter…. it will simply be accepted.

    At one point does something require forced intervention?

    the poster just above me displays anger “To which I wish to say, that’s funny, you don’t look like an a-hole”

    I know a LOT of female engineers and engineernig students (you can guess what I do for a living) and in THIS GENERATION today… it is less of an issue.

    So… Discovery wants a male engineer? Again, I suggest that they are in the business to make money. While I agree that the media has some obligation to ensure equity and morality…. to what extent?

    Certainly, if this host interviews female sex-bots and playboy bunnies who like to make engineering toys… then yes… that should become a focus of indignation and protest.

    But in all liklyhood they have done their homework and market studies indicates that a male is preferred. So what…. Is this battle really worth fighting when the old system is dying anyway?

    (If you disagree with me… and some of you women might… now be gentle… this is a discussino and just because I do not agree does NOT mean I am opposed to the movement)

  13. yami wrote:

    Re: “forcing the issue”, that’s what they said to the suffragettes. Show me evidence of sexism withering away on its own, without a forceful feminist movement behind it, and I’ll think about taking your argument seriously. If the old system is dying, it’s because we’re killing it.

    If you disagree with me… and some of you women might… now be gentle… this is a discussino and just because I do not agree does NOT mean I am opposed to the movement

    No, but the fact that you choose to patronize the female participants in this discussion indicates that your work as a feminist ally is probably not as effective as it could be. With concern trolls like you, who needs enemies?

  14. mr x wrote:


    I guess you are right….
    I am your enemy.
    Thanks for setting me straight.

    (and, no, I was not a troll: you assumed)

  15. yami wrote:

    Toodleoo! (In case you come back to read this, I’d be happy to make nice and apologize. However, I didn’t feel that your penultimate comment took anything that I had written into account, and I’m not in the business of going off on tangents at the whim of someone who doesn’t listen to my replies. If you don’t want to be mistaken for a troll you should do a better job of engaging with people’s actual arguments.)

  16. Sabine wrote:

    “I know a LOT of female engineers and engineernig students (you can guess what I do for a living) and in THIS GENERATION today… it is less of an issue.”

    Bwahahaha!!! Then you clearly must not work in the oil and gas industry. Especially in the oil field.

  17. yami wrote:

    Clearly not. Mr. X’s IP is from a university mechanical engineering department.

  18. Sabine wrote:

    Ahhhhhhh, I worked in that environment myself. Different ballgame entirely. At least it was a lot more subtle. :)

  19. AJ wrote:


  20. AJ wrote:


  21. Eileen Woods wrote:

    I was one of the female engineers interviewd by Discovery. It was pretty awful. I thought we were going to discuss environmental issues and the future. My statements were basically ridiculed and I found myself defending the US at all levels. Then I had to put together some dumb little assembley of batteries to run a tiny fan. As far as age is concernd. When we were through, I was asked my age. I guess 68 was a little beyond what they were looking for. It never occured to me that 50 years of experience would be considered trivial.We’re never too old to learn.

    And AJ, you’ve got to learn to spell.

    Thanks for letting me vent.

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