An Otago Polytechnic advertisement plastered on buses has caused outrage.
It aims to encourage women to sign up to its trades courses, but reads "Girls Girls Girls" in pink neon lights, and "hiring now in blue", looking similar to strip club signage.
Electrician Opal Vickery told Newshub the advert sends mixed messages.
"If you're going to represent an industry and you're advertising to women, perhaps be like, 'This is a job where you can be active, and who wouldn't want to be paid to learn?' This does disturb me - who are you targeting, women or men?
She says it is great women are being encouraged to join the sector, but they have gone about it the wrong way.
"You'll just be treated like you'll be treated at a strip club - where everyone just think you're great because of your looks, not because you're intelligent or your ability to perform."
Otago Polytechnic's site calls the ad "a bit cheeky", but said "they've got to be - challenging society's ingrained gender norms isn't easy".
"We're playing with male-oriented themes and connotations, with the aim of flipping common ideas on their heads to change their meaning."
University of Otago senior lecturer in gender studies Rebecca Stringer told local paper the Otago Daily Times it was "tone deaf", not cheeky.
"Far more positive and just as likely to attract hits on the website would be something celebrating women in construction. Not 'here's some sexism, oops only joking, guess what, we're for women in construction'."
Otago Polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker told the paper the ad was developed by an all-female marketing team, and it's been a success, attracting dozens of applicants.
"However, we regret any offence caused as a result of the campaign content."
Previous research has found female tradies earn 20 percent less than males, nearly twice the usual pay gap.