Booth Babes. You might have heard of them from such conferences as E3 and Comic Con. The concept is simple: station attractive ladies at your expo booth, or wearing your brand, to garner the attention of slavering hordes of males who normally attend these conferences. The scantily-clad ladies reached a point that E3 chose to ban the practise a few years ago.
Well, you may be interested to know that Gen-i has decided to bring the booth babes to Microsoft Tech.Ed NZ 2009. These women below are wandering the conference floor today, replacing the pair that strolled around yesterday. Not wanting to be drawn into stereotyping, I asked the women yesterday if they were SQL experts or perhaps .NET developers. The response was "uh what?", and then they kindly informed me that Gen-i was providing complimentary beverages in their "smoothie lounge".
So here's the question: do you think it's appropriate to have promo girls at Tech.Ed? This is a largely tech conference. There is a small amount of consumer hardware in the Marketplace, but this conference is largely about software and infrastructure. Furthermore, Microsoft understands the low numbers of women involved in tech, and is reaching out to them through initiatives such as the Girl Geek Dinner.
Feel free to comment below. I'd love to hear what women attending Tech.Ed think about this. Or perhaps Gen-i employees - are you happy to be represented this way?
Other related posts:
Loke Uei Tan talks to us about Windows Mobile 6.5 at Microsoft Tech.Ed New Zealand 2009
Ben Gracewood at Tech.Ed New Zealand 2009: revenge of the booth babes
Loke Uei Tan on Windows Mobile
Comment by gtxboyracer, on 15-Sep-2009 11:20
When you said Booth Babes, i was picturing some hot chicks wearing spandex LOL but i guess i was wrong.. tis nice to see chicks at these geek events :)
Comment by holloway, on 15-Sep-2009 11:47
These tech events that have "booth babes" and presenters talking about performing like a porn star seems like a depressing sign of a 40-year old virgin industry that's given up any hope of female involvement and so stops showering, stops grooming, stops wearing anything but black t-shirts that say "I read your email", and is five minutes away from paying women to jump in mud wrestling pit(s) while they squeak with excitment.
That's an exageration, of course, but I'm hoping that --like the 40 year old virgin-- there will be an understanding that women aren't alien creatures and there's no need to make those kind of concessions until you're a 70-year old virgin, at least.
Comment by Steve Wells, on 15-Sep-2009 12:52
They look like they're about 15. Having 2 girls wandering about hardly constitutes "booth babes", most larger gatherings of anything where the majority of the audience is expected to be male (and say what you will, IT related promotions still fits this bill), will likely have "attractive" females wandering about to promote the product. Basic marketing, most blokes like looking at an attractive lady, stick your brand on said lady and there's reasonable odds they'll see it.
Whether said marketing actually makes a damn of difference to your bottom-line beyond paying the walking-billboards is questionable though.
Comment by Paul, on 15-Sep-2009 12:59
Can we please keep this PC rubbish out of NZ IT for a little longer?
Comment by Mike Brown, on 15-Sep-2009 13:09
There should be no place for "booth babes" at tech/web conferences. It's demeaning and kinda sad. It reflects poorly on Microsoft and, especially, Gen-i.
If you can't sell your stuff without resorting to this ...
The whole concept is just depressing.
Comment by KevDaly, on 15-Sep-2009 13:23
Or maybe everybody could just relax a little bit and stop taking life and themselves way too seriously.
If they want to have booth babes, let there be booth babes.
Comment by freitasm, on 15-Sep-2009 13:29
The girls were quite well dressed really. Nothing too revealing - quite nicely done. They were obviously not trying to convey the classic "booth babe" look we know.
I think just the fact they were not wearing the "traditional IT jeans/t-shirt" combination made them stand up from the crowd. Of course the girls attracted attention - the kind of attention girls wearing dresses and high heels would expect when walking around a bunch of tech types.
I agree with Paul and Kev on this. Let it be!
Comment by John, on 15-Sep-2009 13:46
They're not booth babe. THESE are booth babes!
Comment by Felix, on 15-Sep-2009 14:04
Not sure what this has to do with being politically correct or otherwise...
First thing that occurs to me here is Ben needs help! Do the young girls make you feel as if they as sex objects? Are you having negaivte sexual reactions to them? Do you feel superior asking them if they are "SQL experts or perhaps .NET developers"?
If you are being honest I think you will say yes to the above three questions, and rather than blaming the women you have written about, you might want to look at yourself.
If you make that first step, you may find this link useful www.sextherapy.co.nz/
This is nothing to be embarrsed about, you have a problem, and there are tools to help you. Good luck Ben... it wont be easy, but the right thing to do often isn't.
Comment by holloway, on 15-Sep-2009 14:16
"Politically Correct" was a term brought to prominance in the 1980s and 90s by right-wingers to describe left-wing politics and ideals.
Rather than lofty ideas though the anti-Booth-Babe thing is just what I've noticed about female participation communities over the years.
Comment by velofille, on 15-Sep-2009 14:44
Im with Paul on this, people are going overzealous about sexism in IT recently
Comment by James Hippolite, on 15-Sep-2009 14:54
I was going to give my opinion, but then realised that while I'm away at Tech-Ed, away from my gorgeous darling wife, I don't have an opinion yet.
Comment by Brett Roberts, on 15-Sep-2009 15:23
So would you be happier if the women in question were unattractive, poorly-dressed and overweight ? Next time you're at Foodtown ask the checkout operator if s/he is an expert on Tip Top icecream, Tegel chicken or AAA batteries. I suspect they won't be :-)
Comment by Raena Jackson Armitage, on 15-Sep-2009 16:11
I can't speak for Ben, but I'd just be happier if it was safe to assume that the women you see at conferences are actually there because they know something.
I can't tell you how many times I've been spoken down to at various events and shindigs, just because the person speaking to me *assumes* that I'm nontechnical. They don't ask. They just assume. In fact, they even say this shit -- it's like, "So, are you in PR, or...?"
"No, I'm a developer."
Booth babe culture at conferences reinforces this sort of misunderstanding.
Comment by girlinamansworld, on 15-Sep-2009 16:49
Im a women and work for gen-i, and am also an attendee at teched...what i find interesting about the above comments is that I think these girls were dressed appropriately and werent exactly 'car racing' chick style...
What is quite funny is the way I am treated at such an event, like some dumb blonde female who knows nothing, and isn't approached barely at all...just something to think about!
Comment by Brenda, on 16-Sep-2009 11:42
Thanks Ben for blogging this.
You can expect now to get personal attacks - as well as people telling you can't notice sexism cos you're a male.
Many (most) people in the IT industry are still in the IT industry because they either like, or know how to ignore, the sexist crap that happens (yes in NZ too). So you're going to get people who are uncomfortable with the discussion happening telling you to stop talking about it.
I especially like the "Political Correctness" argument - you can silence any critic, it seems, by accusing them of being politically correct.
Booth babes (and these are quite tame ones, but samples none-the-less) do send the message that the IT industry is only for heterosexual men. Catering to the 40 year old virgin crowd (as Holloway so elegantly pointed out) has become more important than making other people feel welcome. The booth babes make many people uncomfortable - men and women. It inparticular turns away women, and i'm tired of being told i'm a freak for having a uterus at a tech conference.
Booth babes don't belong at a conference like Tech Ed - and the industry needs to grow up.
Comment by Meh, boring, on 16-Sep-2009 20:21
They are very tame as far as booth babes go.
Ben, you are entitled to your opinion, but remember that if you throw it out there then people are going to disagree with it.
Anyone who has hangups about booth babes needs to get a life. You should be mature enough to just get over it, go with the flow, stop trying to dictate what other people should experience just because you are not comfortable with it.
As long as it isn't trashy and tasteless, then i have no issue with it. And if it makes anyone feel better, then why not also have booth boys, and throw in a sprinkling of flamboyently dressed gays for those so inclined?
Personally i think it adds a bit of life to what is essentially a very large but droll crowd.
Comment by chchgirlgeek, on 17-Sep-2009 10:58
Well Im a 'gurl' who works for Gen-i and I was quite unimpressed at the presence of booth babes.
I thought it did nothing to encourage the concept of women's equality at a technical event and I thought it was extremely sexist. Its also sad that it very well might have been organised by a woman as well(someone in the marketing team Im assuming)
I was intending to offer some internal feedback about its inappropriateness
Comment by Lisa, on 1-Sep-2010 00:00
I too was expecting to see some actually hot chicks when my bf linked this to me (expecting me to get riled up by it). Not only are these particular girls not that attractive but minus the heels, they may very well have been playing tennis.
I think the key point, that everyone has so far missed, is that the purpose of promo staff, well-clothed or otherwise, is to be welcoming, warm and friendly. These girls' job was to direct people to the booth, the smoothies and presumably hand out some materials. They didn't need to know technical stuff. Only some people feel comfortable approaching complete strangers, chatting with them and trying to sell something. That's the job of promo staff. That's why they hire them. And of course they aren't gonna hire ugly ones. That's life. Also, in a room full of guys dressed the same, some more guys dressed the same aren't gonna stand out, but the girls do stand out - the job of promo staff again.
Are women unrepresented in IT? Seems so, but that's a bigger problem unrelated to promo girls. My sister is a programmer and is sort after because she is female, not hindered because of it (and its not because she doesn't wear much).
I'm a chick and I say get over it.
Comment by MikeSkyrme, on 11-Sep-2010 13:55
No harm done, the girls were there to do a job, which in this case was 'promote Gen-i'.
Now, tell us more about the smooothies......
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