Snap is among the tech companies participating in Wednesday's International Women's Day celebration, but for the maker of Snapchat, those efforts have backfired by offending some of the very people they intended to celebrate.
Snapchat released a handful of new lenses -- which use augmented reality technology to superimpose animations on users' selfies -- celebrating notable women throughout history, including civil rights activist Rosa Parks, artist Frida Kahlo and scientist Marie Curie.
However, many Snapchat users have taken to Twitter to complain about the Curie lens, pointing out the incongruent presence of what seems to be heavy makeup in a filter that supposedly makes people look like a woman whose vast majority of achievements came working in a science lab, and who is not pictured wearing makeup in photos of her.
This isn't the first time that Snap has inadvertently offended people with AR lenses, either. In 2016 alone, the company drew the ire of users after releasing lenses that were decried as "blackface" or "yellowface" for superimposing stereotypically black and Asian features on users. But the Curie lens comes at a somewhat more fraught time for a number of reasons.
For starters, the lens falls on International Women's Day as well as the "A Day Without a Woman," a strike intended to draw attention to the value of women to society that was put together by many of the same organizers of January's Women's March.
Additionally, this diversity trip-up comes at a time when sexism in Silicon Valley is under renewed scrutiny following allegations of widespread mistreatment of women at fellow tech company Uber. At the ride-hailing tech company, the representation of women in tech roles is low, and lack of diversity is known to hurt companies -- studies have shown that companies with higher gender and ethnic diversity are more likely to have greater financial returns than their competitors.
After a former woman employee -- and then two others -- publicly detailed her experience of discrimination and harassment, Uber responded by, among other things, committing itself to releasing its first report breaking out the demographic composition of its workforce in the coming months. It had been one of the few big tech companies to resist releasing such data.
One of the others is Snap. Since it hasn't released a diversity report, it's anyone's guess if a lack of women or people of color in decision making positions has contributed to the PR snafus around lenses. But every time it happens, the question comes up again.
This time, for the first time, however, Snap encounters this issue as a public company, not a private startup with the ability to weather bad press by avoiding talking about it.
Snap is also facing stiffer competition than it used to. Facebook's Instagram app has rolled out countless copycat features of Snap, each one making it easier for users to replicate their experience on Snapchat without ever needing to open the app.
With Uber, unhappy users have taken to use the hashtag #DeleteUber to express their displeasure with the company and their shift to rival services. As Instagram begins to grow as a rival, Snap should be wary of the possibility of its own users taking a similar #DeleteSnap approach should the company continue to offend its users.