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CES booth babes: A step back for women in technology, readers say

In this CIO Chatter, readers discuss CES booth babes and whether these vendor exhibits stymie the progress of women in technology.

Women in technology have long endured scrutiny and inequality in a primarily male-dominated IT field making it difficult for more women to break into IT leadership positions and attempt to close the gender gap. Things are starting to look up, but the showroom floor at International CES 2013 in Las Vegas reminded us that women might still have a long way to go when it comes to feeling comfortable in the technology sphere. What are we referring to, you ask? CES booth babes -- and half-nude booth babes, in particular.

In a CIO Matters column from the show, SearchCIO-Midmarket senior site editor Wendy Schuchart wrote that these half-nude CES booth babes don't align with what so many women are trying to accomplish in IT: to gain respect amongst their peers.

Who honestly thought that mute naked models was a great way to sell technology?

To get a sense of our readers' opinions, SearchCIO-Midmarket asked, "Did the International CES models in body paint contribute to a hostile environment for women in technology?" Readers talked back -- and yes, they were largely offended:

  • "This is ridiculous that this type of objectification is still happening. It is hard enough being a woman in the tech field without this kind of crap."
  • "Enough of the 'booth babes.'"
  • "It's very offensive. I am sick of this kind of treatment of human beings. Yes! Women are human beings. I would feel the same for men if/when they are treated with this kind of objectification and disrespect for their humanity. Get a brain, people!"

Who's to blame? Should someone be reprimanded for the CES booth babes? Our readers pointed fingers at the vendor hosting these showy exhibits:

  • "Who honestly thought that mute naked models was a great way to sell technology?"
  • "Why tolerate such a vendor? Say no to their product."
  • "The vendor with the painted semi-naked women should be banned [from CES] for life."

More talk about women in tech

Gender diversity in IT under the spotlight

Report: Women in IT and the gender gap

Of course, there are two sides to every argument, and not everyone thinks that this one requires a radical response:

  • "You pick your battles. You don't want to always be the person saying, 'That's offensive.' I am always saying it."
  • "Methinks thou complaineth too much. You sound very hetrophobic [new word]."

Do CES booth babes and other showroom models contribute to a hostile environment for women in technology? Should vendors rethink their tactics? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Do CES booth babes damage the reputation of women in technology?
It's bad for men, too. This kind of activity treats men as juveniles who make business decisions by being led around by the genitalia. It's highly offensive and distracting.
Booth Babes or Booth Bunnies indicate so many assumptions on the part of the companies using them. They assume that all decision makers involved in the purchase of their products are men who are attracted to "babes". They assume that men who are attracted to said "babes" are willing to base a business decision on a cute girl in a booth.

IF the only thing that a marketing department can come up with to get people to stop by their booth is sex appeal, it makes me wonder what they have to back it up, tech wise. The idea that sex sells is not new, but it seems to be a crutch to use if your product is not up to snuff.
I completely agree with the previous poster and I couldn't have said it better myself: If the only thing that a marketing department can come up with to get people to stop by their booth is sex appeal, it makes me wonder what they have to back it up, tech wise.
Getting public reaction (pun intended) is exactly why companies/people do such things. If people largely ignored booth babes, companies would no longer find reason to hire them.

More importantly, why is one segment's choice of legal, gainful employment viewed as damaging to another segment? If you are female, minority, majority, etc.... and are competent in your field, would someone else dressed up in a way some folks deem inappropriate affect your competence? If these booth babes (as ridiculous as I think they are, I won't infringe on their rights) truly do damage the reputation of women in technology then surely, other women who dress up nicely and look attractive also damage the reputation of women in technology. Lower impact perhaps but damage is done regardless right? How about we mandate all WiT wear green ponchos daily? No wait, some other group is then going to complain that just because a WiT dresses well and looks attractive (or dresses poorly and looks like a hobo) it doesn't mean she got where she is because of her looks.

Live and let live people. All that time and energy spent judging and complaining could have been used to save a puppy or reduce our national deficit.
This is disrespect for women & also for men. Thinking a CIO will buy on that criteria is simply ridiculous. Ban the Communication agency & the firm that used such an advertising.
Women have an equally good brains as their male counterparts. In my opinion, the technology that needs such models to sell it, might not be competitive enough.
I am a woman in technology and while I would like to see some 'booth dudes' purely for my fun, I dont see how my professionalism is threatened by ladies that no one will link to me. I started in the IT industry at 19 and really struggled with being young, black and female in a male-dominated industry. Had to work 4 times harder. But there were no booth babes influencing anyone so in my opinion, its irrelevant.
Before I get flamed let me explain. Did the image harm women as a whole, yes I believe so. But I don't think it has harmed women who actually work in the IT field, simply because they do look like that, (my co-pilot is eyeing me). I feel that the IT sphere is a realm where skills come before beauty, and though this image objectifys women in a tasteless manner, an IT woman skills for the field speaks louder.
Is not the idea of these booths to get people to come into the booth so a salesperson can try and offer/sell them something or provide them with some type of service or solution? So at my company with more and more women being in IT Positions, not only is it disrespectful to the women I work with to have an IT showroom floor look like a Tattoo and Harley showroom but also makes it uncomfortable for me the male counterpart to say hey...lets walk past those two off duty strippers and see what that company has to offer....when it seems pretty apparent what they are offering and it has nothing to do with IT but more with T&A.
They don't damage the reputation to women in technology, but I can see how women in technology are offended by the semi-naked women at the shows. Personally, I love the Booth Babes!
Yes, it does damage the reputation of women in technology because we want the same professional recognition the men enjoy rather than having women displayed as sexual objects at a professional conference. If the vendor is going to do that, then he should make it fair and add an equal amount of male booth babes!!
This is only marketing, I hope also show painted men. They do not represent IT women, they are just selling a product, and IT woman is the woman who works with no paint and make systems works.
A very small portion of the vendors at CES are in the Information Technology business ( computer hardware, software, and support services). Automotive add ons, mainly audio components, take up one complete hall. Home theatres use more floor space than I.T. vendors. Since Microsoft will not exhibit next year I.T. will have even less vendors. With I.T. vendors being a small number of vendors, are the 'booth babes' from non I.T. vendors being confused with the 'booth babes' from I.T. vendors.
It could be worse. Many years ago, COMDEX, a similarly size solely for computer hardware, software, and related items had a venue for vendors providing 'adult' content. This group was located in the Sahara Hotel instead of 'booth babes' they had some of the content providers manning the booths. On occasion I have noticed the adult film industry has an awards show in Las Vegas around the same time as CES. Visitors to CES may cross paths with some of the adult film actors while walking thru various hotels.
If you are complain about the 'boot babes' of I.T. vendors make sure the people you are referring to are temporary employees of an I.T. vendor,
Booth babes are offensive in general to women, but not particularly to women in IT. Women in IT are respected for their skills and ability to execute. Vendors should find a way to attract attention to their booths without resorting to something that obviously is offensive to many. Do they want to sell their product or gain notoriety?
Funny I don't look at a half naked woman and think badly of her or think that she solely represents all women on the planet. Nor do I think that a woman half naked or otherwise affects women in IT. No more than if they had male models standing there with Speedos on. They do not represent me and I don't look down upon them or the company. Everyone needs to make a living. Sex sells, period. What they should do is add some male models to the mix to give the women something to oogle over. Personally I don't fall prey to this type of advertising or enticement. Either you have a great product or you don't, the models are simply bait to get you into their booth. I think what we have with the haters are a serious infection of thin skin. How in the world you make the connection between booth babes and women in IT just blows my mind.
Yes sex sells so I think the only fair option is to balance out the playing field by having the same number of booth boy toys. Wonder how the IT guys would deal with that?
Damages the companies that the 'model' or 'babe' for.
As terse and rude as it may sound, some people were born with brains; others, with beauty. Why punish anybody if they can work and provide a service (yes, being aesthetically pleasing is still a service oddly enough).
Far too many people want to wear very thin skin and get offended at the slightest things. I say, if you don't like it, then don't look at it (them)!
This is not to say that the models do not have brains, but they certainly DO have beauty and, like it or not, most IT people rarely see that and seem to genuinely appreciate their presence. I have worked in IT sales and I was told on two separate occasions by customers that they preferred to work with our female salespeople: It was no wonder why, as we employed very attractive female salespeople. They specifically told me it was not meant as any offense to me as I was considered very knowledgeable, but they wanted a female salesperson.
Now, if I were like many people here I suppose I could have complained. Instead, I quickly got a female replacement and moved-on to the next customer.