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May 10 2012   1:07AM GMT

Again with the booth babes? Interop 2012

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

LAS VEGAS — As I was ambling toward an 8 a.m. meeting at Interop 2012 this week, I noticed a young woman dressed rather provocatively. She took the escalator just ahead of me and her appearance was striking. I thought to myself, “Wow, she is dressed inappropriately for this show!” A tiny black top and short, short, short black shorts that left just a minimum to the imagination.

At the top of the escalator she was greeted by an identically-dressed young woman. That’s when it clicked in my sleepy head. Booth babes!

Booth babes (or spokesmodels if you prefer a less pejorative term) are ubiquitous at trade shows that draw a heavy male audience. Car shows. Computer graphics conferences. IT shows. These are women hired for their looks. They are sex objects. There’s no getting around that fact. And the companies that hire them do a grave disservice to the industry.

I can appreciate an attractive woman like any other guy. However, as a journalist who covers the IT industry, I lose a lot of respect for companies who rely on them. I passed by booths belonging to Net Optics and Barracuda Networks several times on my way to other meetings and I did not fail to notice the platoon of scantily clad women hired to lure men close enough to scan their Interop badges. Anything for a sales lead, right? Are those sales leads really worth it when you’re promoting sexism?

I’m probably in the minority on this issue, but I am sick of the atmosphere created by these smokesmodels (And I’m not just saying that because my girlfriend might be reading this). I refuse to stop at any booth that features these women. These companies should find a better way to attract potential customers than fast cars and beautiful women. Leave cheap tricks like that to the auto industry. I don’t want to be associated with something like that, so I’ll stay clear. There are plenty of companies who rely on industry professionals to engage the media and potential customers at the show.

Moreover, there are a lot of professional women on Interop’s showroom floor — marketing professionals, engineers, IT managers, technology executives. Men outnumber women ten-to-one in this industry, and we all know there are a many reasons for this. Reason number one is staring you right in the face when you let some teenage girl with a winning smile and fishnet stockings scan your badge. They might have a nice smile, but companies that hire these models are creating a hostile work environment for our female colleagues. That’s not just some politically correct term. It’s a fact.

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  • Site Expert Greg Ferro
    I also despise the sexist "booth babe" idea. What I've also discovered is a rule of thumb that companies willing to spread money and flesh to get a name, are also companies with poor products. I guess the logic is "our products are crap so we need to to something to get some interest...." It's also possible that the marketing manager thinks it's still the 1980's (but that's still a sign a bad company that you don't want to partner with. Plus, as a father of two daughters, I'm hoping a for a better world. Is that too much to ask ?
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  • Jlavepoze
    What a great article, and I’m so glad it came from a man. Why? Because each time I bring up an instance of sexism I see the men I work with eyes roll. They seem sick of hearing about how women are treated differently or what is or is not appropriate. In my short career in high tech PR I’ve endured discussions about who is the hottest actress, comments about my cloths, men telling me that they much prefer long hair (as if I was even asking them what they thought), being asked if I was a lesbian because I spoke up about an inappropriate remark and much more. When I was responsible for tradeshows I had several male coworkers ask me why we didn’t have booth babes. When I explained my reasoning, the response I got back was “yeah, but they work”. I even had a boss state during a meeting that he would tell another co-worker something later because he couldn’t say it while I was around. Isn’t that just exclusion based on gender? Sexism is alive and well, but often times it isn’t as blatant as all this. Sometimes it takes the shape of off-hand comments that seem harmless but really indicate a person’s true feelings about women in the workplace. Perhaps it has gotten better over the years and I have nothing to complain about. I’m sure this is true but until men start seeing women in the workplace as just another co-worker and stop judging women by their “assets” as you put it, I don’t think we are done moving forward. While men are partially to blame I think some young women are just as culpable. I see them wearing outfits to work that are quite revealing or suggestive: high booths with thigh length skirts, low cut tops, even leggings. I don’t consider myself a prude either but if women want to be taken seriously they should dress like professionals not like they are going clubbing.
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