Sexism and the ISC West Party GirlsBy John Honovich, Published on Mar 24, 2013
A major tradeshow is coming up and, with that, marketing gimmicks abound. Some are goofy, but others raise serious concerns about creating an offensive and hostile environment.
One surveillance manufacturer, Dotworkz, is promoting its event with a girl in short shorts carrying their camera cleaning tool (see image to the right). They explain that if you come to the Dotworkz ISC West Party you can mingle with the 'Legendary Domewizard Party Girls.'
Dotworkz markets this as an 'Exclusive VIP event' where powerful industry people can network, make deals and, evidently, ogle at party girls.
Is the Domewizard Party Girls Event Sexist? Yes - 52%, No - 48% (500 votes)
Feedback from Dotworkz and the Women's Security Council
We sent an email to Dotworkz's male President saying, "IPVM thinks the Domewizard girls are sexist and should not be used in a professional event." A female Dotworkz employee responded:
"We have been running many different advertisements regarding our invitation-only ISC West2013 Dotworkz Party on April 10th. Our theme this year is 'American Made…American Strong.' Everyone on our team is very happy to be part of Dotworkz, as well to be promoting American made products and American jobs. In an industry that is dominated by overseas products we continue to promote innovative, useful and quality American made products with the help of not only the smartest men but the smartest women."
Evidently, the Dotworkz sexy maids are American made and help to promote America.
The Women's Security Council was only modestly more critical, responding:
"WSC’s role is to promote the professional women of our industry, and highlight the positive growth and acceptance of professional women within the security industry as a whole. The use of women as bait is not ideal and WSC would like to see less of this activity at industry trade shows and events. The good news is that in the past three years we've seen the market moving away from this approach and it's not as prevalent on the show floor as it used to be. The reality is that these 'tactics' have been used in the security industry and other markets for some time. We are working diligently to change the market's perception but it cannot be changed overnight. WSC is involved in significant initiatives to promote and support the successful female professionals in today's market." (Emphasis Added)
No Tolerance for Sexism
A runny nose is not ideal. 'The use of women as 'bait' in a professional event is unacceptable. We should not tolerate this.
For those guys who do not find this offensive, consider the opposite - An event where you get to mingle and chat with college boys in short shorts. Why doesn't Dotworkz have the Domewizard Party Boys? Because their core male audience would freak out and not show.
And for those of you who say, "That's how it's always been." Wake up. It's 2013, not 1953.
The security industry has a lot of dunces, overwhelmingly men in leadership positions. We can improve by not objectifying women at industry events, keeping the focus off body parts and on business value.
In the comments, a number of women shared experiences that can help explain why this is a serious issue:
#1: "It's not just on the show floor where this is going on, it's at many of the vendor parties. Parties that women like myself have to attend because we are often working at them as part of our day jobs, in professional corporate functions. If we complain that we are uncomfortable with women swinging on poles (and yes, I've seen this) or women dancing in lingerie as part of the "entertainment", we are told our opinions don't count, because we are not the target demographic."
#2: "If you are on a booth like that, your (dominantly male) colleagues are continuously commenting the booth babes tits and asses, and no sensible word is still coming out of their mouth. In the mean time I forgive them, since they can't help it, everyone has his or her limitations, my colleagues brains can't handle a broad spectrum of information, they tend to focus best on only one thing. So be it. And on normal day to day work, they are great colleagues to work with and I really can count on them.
What is a more indirect result of this innocent way of marketing, is that if you as a female colleague are at a booth, being it as visitor, either as a professional member of the technical staff, you either have to prove every minute again that you are not a booth babe, either they expect you to be one.
I once had the suggestions by one of our sales to wear high heels and short skirt, together with my marketing colleague. Have any of you guys already been to an exhibition wearing high heels ? It is really worth the try, it will give you a complete new experience in 7 ways to torture your feet in 1 day.
On the other hand, when I walk as a visitor together with my colleague, and I start asking questions on a product that interests me, the (usually male exhibitor) either ignores me, or answers my question to my colleague, avoiding eye-contact. Untill after half an hour, finally the idea rises that I might be the decision maker."
Sources tell us hundreds attended the Dotworkz event, and got to take photos with the DomeWizard girls:
Plus, they handed out complimentary condoms:
While we were a little surprised that they trademarked their juvenile slogan, "Protect More Than Your Camera", perhaps they needed to protect their core intellectual property.