Posted by: Wendy Schuchart
CIO, women in IT
Last week, CIO Symmetry was in the middle of a veritable booth babe coup. I never would have imagined that the VMworld 2011 promotional models would be such an emotional subject and, yet, the blog post was retweeted multiple times and garnered several response posts, like these from Jon Toigo and Anthony Vandewerdt. I wasn’t the only person offended by the VMworld 2011 booth babes. Some commenters questioned what was the big deal, citing the fact that the booth babes were there of their own will (well, they’re being paid by vendors, actually) and missed the crucial point, which blogger Matt Simmons summed up nicely:
What you end up with is the situation where you, as a conference-goer, walk up to a booth and, because you’re no stranger to how this works, ignore any attractive woman and talk directly to a male at the booth. You assume immediately that any attractive female is there simply for their physical appearance, not for the value that their knowledge brings. This is wrong on every level, and it’s an insidious form of objectifying women — it happens gradually, over time, and the more booth babes you see, the more ingrained it becomes.
On Twitter, the argument picked up even more steam. Hilariously, someone pointed at one VMworld 2011 vendor as an example of booth babe overload, and the vendor piped up with “2 out of 3 of our ‘babes’ had MSc in Elec Eng & could pitch us technically.” See? Even those of us on the anti-booth babe camp have a hard time resisting the objectification.
Simmons has put forth a call to action, asking the IT world to take booth staff to task for employing booth staff with no product knowledge, and also suggests that protesters make it count to the vendors’ bottom line by refusing to do business with them.
What do you think? Should booth babes be banned (try saying that four times fast)? Is this a whole lot of noise about some harmless promotional models? Vote your conscience in our quick and dirty informal poll!