Culture

Czech company hosts Facebook bikini contest to choose interns

Commentary: Power conglomerate CEZ seems to think making potential interns wear bikinis and hard hats is cultural enrichment.

 Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Yes, in 2017.

CEZ/Facebook screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

After Travis Kalanick's resignation last week as Uber's CEO following accusations of widespread sexual harassment at his company, sexism has become quite the topic in the tech industry.

The problem's not confined to Silicon Valley. 

Please consider the contribution to modern culture offered by Czech power conglomerate CEZ. The company couldn't quite decide how to choose the interns for one of its nuclear power stations this year.

So it asked all the female applicants to dress in bikinis and hard hats and held a Facebook competition. As German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports, 10 female high-school graduates were paraded before CEZ's followers to ogle and favor.

You might think there would have been a national outcry in the Czech Republic. You might think you need to check the definition of "outcry." For local TV station Jihoceske actually ran a flattering feature on the plan.

CEZ has had some second thoughts since then.

"We did not want anyone to feel upset. The purpose of the competition was to introduce a non-traditional environment and support technical education. However, if the original vision raised doubts or concerns, we are very sorry about it," a CEZ spokesman told me.

Please consider the concept of supporting technical education for the next few hours.

The company offered a similar apology of sorts on Facebook

"The winner of the facebook competition is ... all interested parties," it began. How enlightened. Yes, the company decided to offer all its bikini contestants an internship. Well, alright then.

Deutsche Welle said that in a press release announcing this competition, CEZ compared it to so-called cultural enrichment programs held in the past. You know, concerts by classical orchestras, that sort of thing.

Some members of the media and public actually did feel more than "doubts or concerns."

Deutsche Welle quoted human rights lawyer Petra Havlikova's reaction: "The competition is absolutely outside the bounds of ethics. In 2017, I find it incredible that someone could gain a professional advantage for their good looks."

Every time you realize that it really is 2017, you wonder whether any progress has been made at all. 

First published, June 25 at 1:01 p.m. PT.
Update, June 26 at 8:48 a.m. PT: Comment from CEZ added.

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