If you’re an attractive, young woman in business who has worked in sales or marketing (and sometimes, even if you haven’t worked in those departments), you’ve probably been sent to a trade show (or marketing event) to “man the booth” for the primary reason to attract male attendees to the booth.
Sadly, the concept of “booth babes” has been around for a very long time and is used in every industry regardless of how relevant or irrelevant female sexuality is to the industry, its products, services, and customers.
In 2012, BBC News put together a report about the excessive use of booth babes at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which you can view below. It shows just how far the envelope is pushed in terms of using women in various stages of undress to “sell” electronics products.
2012 BBC Video – CES Booth Babes
'Booth Babes' Upset CES Women by 5minTech
This year, the BBC followed up with a new video about booth babes, and it’s quite possibly even more disturbing with the latest comments from CES CEO Greg Shapiro. You can watch it below.
2013 BBC Video – CES Booth Babes
I think the best wrap-up of the booth babe controversy was published yesterday by Kim LaCapria of The Inquistr who wrote:
CES booth babes really are somewhat like a racist joke or other off-color reminder of the existence of these stereotypes — the ugly ideas behind it will always be simmering underneath the surface. In the BBC video [above], the CES CEO Gary Shapiro responds to the British news agency’s initial question in 2012, responding:
” … People naturally want to go towards what they consider pretty. So your effort to try to get a story based on booth babes, which is decreasing rather rapidly in the industry, and say that it’s somehow sexism imbalancing, it’s cute but it’s frankly irrelevant in my view.”
And therein lies part of the rub — if we protest too loudly, we are accused of not being “fun,” or missing the point or some other variation that kind of glosses over how unpleasant it is that while your colleagues are simply expected to show up and work, you are often expected to show up, work and look hot doing it or risk being relegated to invisible status.
In short, the presence of booth babes at CES 2013 alongside many dressed-to-actually-work females served an important, if depressing, reminder of how far females still have to go in the fields represented at the convention.
Each glittered decolletage served as a stark illustration of our continued under-representation, each half-glute bared a testament to the fact that there are two paths for women where for men there are just one, and while those who choose the skin-baring route should not be judged, the culture that encourages it certainly can be debated.
Well said, Kim.
Kim’s full article is a must-read, and you can read it in its entirety on The Inquisitr.
It would be awesome to replace every booth babe with an actual female company rep; the tech industry doesn’t try hard enough to recruit women who are capable in sales and business development. Women are naturally attractive, and naturally intelligent – the companies that get that can really succeed.
On the other hand, if I owned a tech company, I might be tempted to hire a Booth Boy, a real hulk, to make a counter statement…..
Susan Gunelius says
You’re absolutely right, Janet.
Casey Dawes says
I spent over 30 years in the tech world. I missed the “shopping/spend hours to look good” gene. It was discouraging to see women, smart women, get ahead in that very male dominated industry in the 1980s and 1990s by trading on their looks. In those days, things were even weirder than they are now…girls in go-go cages, etc. On the other hand there was a sense of “more power to them” as they led some men around by their noses.
And it is sad that there seems to be a requirement for a woman to make a “choice” between embracing their feminine side or their minds.