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.