- A Czech nuclear power station faces criticism for its unusual way of choosing its next intern: a bikini contest, CNN reports. Temelín station, operated by CEZ Group, posted public photos of 10 female high school students posing in bikinis, competing for the title of "Miss Energy 2017."
- Apparently, the audience-chosen winner would then receive a two-week internship at the plant. The post earned near-immediate backlash from Facebook users, and the company has since removed the photos. A follow-up post apologized to followers and stated that internship offers would be extended to all 10 women.
- Before the offending photos were removed, a comment from the Temelín station account seemed to play down criticism, saying "the combination of beauty and the industrial environment gives an interesting result." The company claimed that it intended to use the photos "to promote technical education."
At the risk of stating the obvious, the optics of this "contest" alone are plainly indefensible. The company may have stated it had a different intention in mind than what critics originally perceived, but "swimsuits" and "two-week internship" are two phrases that should never be used in the same sentence.
There's obviously a slight culture gap here, considering that the nuclear plant is located in Eastern Europe. But social media gaffes leave corporate cultures open to criticism from observers around the world. In this case, that gaffe directly involved an aspect of recruiting, giving the wrong kind of first impression to would-be job seekers and referrals. Corporate branding relies heavily on values alignment, and it's hard to demonstrate your organizational values amid accusations of sexism.
This situation also calls more attention to the discrimination that women face when pursuing STEM careers. It's unfathomable that a bikini contest should be used even jokingly in reference to the recruiting process amid a slew of very real sexual harassment scandals and a pervasive gender wage gap.
A one word takeaway for recruiters (and for all members of an organization): sensitivity. Diversity in hiring requires more than just verbal mission statements. Every activity and extension of the organization should reflect a spirit of inclusion.