An engineering firm that has a topless calendar and uses a bikini-clad model on the back of a delivery truck has been blasted as sexist by top scientist Dr Michelle Dickinson.
On Friday, Dickinson, who runs New Zealand's only nanotechnology laboratory, confronted bosses at Metal Skills Ltd's Auckland workshop over its use of near-nude calender shots on its open Facebook page. Provocative photos of glamour models in g-strings straddle and lie on sheetmetal equipment throughout the company page.
A delivery truck also features a picture of a bikini-clad torso with the tag line, "Where form meets function."
Dickinson, widely known as Nanogirl, took engineering graduates — five female and one male — with her when she questioned company director David Blackett about the advertising she believes objectified women.
"My concern is I have these amazing [woman] graduates who are fantastic, but they probably won't want to work in a place that has pictures of half-naked women around," Dickinson told Blackett. "We are not sure what a girl in a bikini has to do with sheetmetal engineering."
Engineering honours graduate Janet Van, now studying mechatronics, told Blackett women would be uncomfortable working in such an environment. "It's offensive and it has nothing to do with engineering," she said. "A bikini is hardly what you wear when you are working with sheetmetal, is it?"
Blackett said the advertising on the van was done "to catch the attention" and said it was "a bit risky" but he didn't think it was offensive. He said the calendars were "a bit of a laugh. We are not doing anything sexist".
He said the company was an equal opportunities employer, and staff included several females, including a sales engineer. It also had female clients.
Earlier this year the delivery van picture was subject to an Advertising Standards Authority complaint which was not upheld.
The complainant said the advertisement portrayed women as sex objects. "I want my daughter to be able to be a welder, a doctor, an engineer or whatever she wants to be," the complainant said.
"This reinforces the negative gender stereotypes I thought we had got past."
The authority ruled the ad did not meet the threshold to be considered "exploitative or degrading".
Dickinson has been vocal about encouraging children, particularly girls, into science and said the advertising was a huge backwards step.
She won the Prime Minister's science prize last year and donates 20 per cent of her income to charities that give disadvantaged kids access to technology.
She was one of eight scientists worldwide invited to spend a week on Necker Island last year with billionaire Sir Richard Branson to discuss sustainability.