It turns out that we just didn’t speak up.
I thought, that by writing about scantily-clad women hired as spokesmodels for this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, and by asking the Consumer Electronics Association, which puts on the show, why they don’t ban them, I was pretty clearly saying I didn’t think booth babes belonged at a business function.
Not according to the CEA, which says they haven’t received a “single formal complaint” from attendees or exhibitors about the use of scantily-clad women to pitch products. Apparently, negative news stories by reporters and bloggers attending the show don’t count.
Sans complaints, the likelihood the CEA will reconsider its exhibitor policy is about nil. The current policy recommends companies “consider how your chosen presenters will most positively reflect your brand to the diverse group of CES attendees.” If your idea of “most positively reflect” is painted women dressed in thongs and pasties and covered in body paint, as was the case for one of this year’s exhibitors, well, says the CEA, go for it.
Obviously, what the CEA needs are some formal complaints. So I set up an online petition asking that the organization adopt a dress code policy for its exhibitors that essentially prohibits the use of booth babes (but not spokesmodels). I’ve got nothing against attractive women. All I’m asking is that they be dressed in everyday clothes -- maybe matching the dress code back at a company’s headquarters.
Here’s what some of the men and women who have already signed the petition have to say.
“I quit going to CES because of the objectification of women. When you place women as booth babes to sell products, the objectification transfers to all women present, whether clad in a bikini or not. CES will never be a professional conference until they drop booth babes.”
“I've grown up in the tech industry, and being taken seriously has always been a challenge. Let's change that for our daughters.”
“Women are people, not objects.”
“As a woman in the tech industry, I find it frustrating that the women hired to work the booths typically have little to no knowledge of the product or event. It further propagates the idea that women in tech are less skilled than their male counterparts.”
“The use of scantily clad women to attract people to booths insults all of our intelligence in that we are incapable of selecting products based on their merit.”
“I recommend trade show expenditures for two-dozen large technology clients; I do not recommend (nor allow my employees to attend) events that present poor gender role models, or have policies that objectify women. I've worked in the technology industry for over 25 years, and it offends me that my granddaughters are still dealing with the gender stereotypes I had to fight to gain my executive roles in start-ups like Netflix, Zone Labs, and Starfish Software. Never, when I was preparing to launch the camera phone, did I think I'd be attending a trade show almost a decade later, and find painted women wearing nothing except thongs and pasties, at a "business" event like CES. But that's what happened at CES this year, and I won't be back next year unless this changes.”
“As a young journalist fresh out of grad school, I covered industry conventions where I was heckled and harassed just for being female and young. No one, male or female, should have to put up with that, and the presence of booth babes at conferences like CES creates an atmosphere that supports the objectification of women.”
“If we want tech events to be welcoming to women, if we want the tech industry to be a truly innovative, open ecosystem to women now and girls in the future, we need to stop objectifying women at tradeshows.”
“This is an anachronism that has no place in the 21st century.”
“The CEA should take the lead and demonstrate the direction of the industry. That's what associations do. They provide leadership, rather than just following the course and maintaining the status quo.”
“Wake up. The world has changed. What sells? Treating customers (women customers specifically) with respect.”
If you liked this story, you might also like:
Why Booth Babes Have Got To Go
When Women Run The (Corporate) World
Lilly Ledbetter, Equal Pay For Women, and Toyo Tires
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Image designed by L. Leddy