L’Oréal Paris' recent print advertising campaign featured Oscar-winning actress Dame Helen Mirren with the statement “Age is just a number and maths was never my thing.”
National Numeracy tweeted its disappointment that the advert appeared to boast about poor maths skills. The campaign had also attracted some criticism in the press.
L’Oréal Paris responded to National Numeracy's tweet, saying “Thanks for raising this, we hadn’t meant it to be interpreted this way. We’re changing it right away & you’ll see new ads soon.”
National Numeracy Chief Executive Mike Ellicock said:
Throwaway remarks about being ‘no good at maths’ are so easy to make and so damaging in the way they normalise negative attitudes. It’s unusual for a company to recognise and remedy their error in the way that L’Oréal have, so we really appreciate their response.
We know that women and girls often have particularly low levels of confidence and particularly high levels of anxiety about maths. So it’s especially important that advertising directed at them doesn’t perpetuate the myth that women can’t do maths.
National Numeracy was established in 2012 with the aim of improving everyday maths skills among adults and children in the UK, as well as changing negative attitudes to maths.
L’Oréal Paris said the comment was meant to be a playful reference to ageing and was never intended to be interpreted as negative towards maths. L’Oréal have been strong supporters of women in STEM through their L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science fellowship programme and recently extended this in the UK to offer a £15,000 fellowship for female postdoctoral researchers in mathematics or engineering. The company also support getting young people involved in the sciences through the L’Oréal Young Scientist Centre at the Royal Institution.