EDF’s attempt to join the drive in encouraging more girls into science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) careers has been criticised for being sexist.

The #PrettyCurious campaign encourages girls of ages 11-16 to consider careers in the traditionally male-dominated fields of Stem, however the online campaign has raised eyebrows for its stereotypical view of female scientists.

In a statement issued by EDF on its website the energy giant said: “It’s not about being ‘pretty’; it’s about being ‘pretty curious’. Using ‘pretty’ is a play on words. We are using the word in the sense of ‘pretty unexpected’, ‘pretty determined’, ‘pretty inventive’, ‘pretty focused’ and ‘pretty curious’.

“It’s been chosen purposefully to challenge the stereotypes around personal appearance that are often applied to girls. We knew the name would attract attention and chose it in order to raise awareness of the campaign, which aims to address the significant under-representation of women in Stem.”

EDF have been criticised for not supporting an existing campaign instead, to which it responded by mentioning that it has partnered with The Times Cheltenham Science Festival for over 10 years and are the founding sponsors of the POWERful Women initiative.

In its statement EDF added: “We also work with over 19,500 schools in the UK (over 60% of UK schools) who are signed up to The Pod, EDF Energy’s award winning educational programme – and in Somerset, our Inspire Programme has connected with over 70,000 school children in 171 local schools to help students understand the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“We feel this is a critical issue – and one where we have a right to get involved given the importance of it for our business and for the UK as a whole. But we will also continue to work collaboratively with other groups to address it.”