Sexism and the ISC West Party Girls

Author: 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.

What Do You Think?

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)

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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.

UPDATE: Industry Women Share Experiences

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."

UPDATE: The Event's Activities

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.

Comments (95)

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Even in 2013, sex still sells. It's a basic truth of advertising that will never change, no matter how much people don't like it. 'The use of women as bait' may be 'unacceptable' but the simple fact is, it works, and it's far from unique to the surveillance business. Check out an auto show sometime... boat show... home and garden show... computer trade show... a friend of mine attended a major mining conference in town here recently, and it was the same thing there (though to a smaller degree, as it wasn't so much a "trade show").

As for your opposite scenario, of the short-shorts-clad college boys... I somehow doubt it would scare many people off. In a male-dominated industry, it would simply not be as effective - wasted marketing money, as it were.

Actually, I recall many years ago (1994 or 95, I think it was), when LANtastic was a small but solid player in the networking market... their presence at COMDEX include buff male AND female models, dressed in workout garb... I don't recall exactly what the buzzline was, something about strength in networking, but it was plenty effective, and nobody seemed at all put off by the ripped guys handing out ad copy and trinkets.

Cover it up, rail against it, disguise it, sweep it under the rug, deny it all you like... sex sells, and always will.

First and foremost, this is a question of ethics, not effectiveness. Should we, as an industry, support this? Is this the right thing to do?

As for it 'always will', things do change but only if people speak up and fight for what is right.

Finally, it might help short term sales, but it hurts long term by discouraging women from wanting to be in the industry. It's no secret than girls are far outperforming boys scholastically. For example, see trends in college degrees:

Sure, 'selling sex' helps a handful of manufacturers but at the expense of the industry's talent pool. You really think this is fair to women? Do you think women should simply ignore that they are being objectified in industry events?

Beyond being sexist, don't people realize its just flat out stupid? I guess to each their own, but last I checked this industry isnt dominated by 18-22 year olds, unfortunately just 40-50 year olds who like to pretend they're 18-22...

Note: See discussion on this at Hacker News.

Interesting comment by one person there:

"A larger issue is that attendees will stop taking all women at the event seriously. It's like a spam filter for the brain: if you want to talk seriously about a product, find a man. Please note that even women attendees do this to each other. See this discussion especially the comments"

Doesn't there need to be some type of discrimination for something to be sexist?

This is like saying it is Racist just because there is a <insert race> person on the advertisement.

No its not, also, put your name on it.

Undisclosed, this sentence from the Hacker News forum that John linked to above sums it up well:

"It's using women as passive objects instead of as participants in the show. Women and men have different roles in the show. The men are taken seriously and the women are not. That's why it's sexist."

Undisclosed, putting a picture of a women on an advertisement is not inherently sexist.

However, labelling them 'Party Girls', putting them in short shorts and having them hold a tool to clean cameras is what makes it sexist. Does that make sense to you?

I'm probably going to get eaten alive for this, and maybe it's my age showing but I am able to (and do) look at women as both sex objects and valid businesspeople, depending on the circumstances.

You can't get away from sex, it makes the world go around. There are many people of both sexes who think this aversion to any kind of sexuality in a business setting is unhealthy to the human mind. After all, the desire to reproduce is a healthy part of human makeup - without it, we might as well be dodo birds (long extinct).

The problem is being able to separate the one outlook from the other. Other cultures are able to do so, and it's not from repressing sexuality but from embracing it. One of the faults, I guess, of western culture.

Mutual respect is hugely important, even in a casual business relationship. Not only does a booth babe or domegirl set the wrong tone for a fruitful, honesty based relationship, it engenders disrespect on both ends:

Like Sean points out, the sweaty ex-jock 40 something ISC attendee is focused on putting the moves on an attractive woman who is being paid to be around him, and the manufacturer is trying to pander to the horomones of potential customers rather than keeping discussion focused on the technical merits of the product.

Where is the honor in that?

The WSC response seems carefully worded to point out (and sidestep the sexism question) that they are there 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." (and they used that same 2 word descriptor again at the end...)

Are they stating that they only care about women who wear suits in our industry, and it is not their role to care about any women that wear sexy outfits and cowboy boots (i.e. not professional women)?

Are there other advocacy groups who just advocate for sub-sections of their chosen oppressed or underrespresented groups? Does PETA have a lesser known sister group that only advocates for animals that they think are 'acceptable'?

Say it aint so, WSC! :(


Personally, I see WSC's comments referring to women in a "professional" role rather than those in the role of a "booth babe". Which by the way is the first time I've ever heard of the term "booth babe".

The role of WSC is actually to promote women in the security industry, not take on the many issues women face in the world in general. WSC takes on the issues that I, as a security professional, face in this industry and there are many. WSC can't take on all the issues women face. There are just too many. It is an uphill climb for women but every day brings some small amount of progress. Nothing/no one changes overnight...

Listening (or rather, reading) to the comments/interaction with people on the IPVM forum has been fantastic... why? Because people here just share information and knowledge without regard to appearance or gender. Here, people are in the "help" or "learn" mode. It would be nice to have that at big events like ISC or ASIS.

Btw, this is my humble opinion and only my opinion. No animals were harmed during the typing of this comment.

Margarita, I agree that the WSC should not be responsible for the issues woman face in the world generally. However, booth babes at an industry trade show is an industry specific issue impacting how women are viewed and treated in the industry.

If the WSC really wants the industry to improve its treatment of women, I do not think they should constraint themselves to promoting professional women only. They need to also call out activities and practices that demean women within the industry. The old buy club, that is the leadership of this industry, must know that it will not to be tolerated. That's why I think it's important for the WSC to take a strong stand against such events.

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."

This gave me the impression they were. If not, I'll bring it up.

If nothing else this just highlights the fact that DotWorkz really has nothing of value to show, so in the place of an actual new product, let's go to the lowest common denominator guy and get him in. As for the guys who actually want to go talk to girls and do the whole "stays in Vegas" thing.. I bet you I can predict which event is going to be the biggest "testosterone" -fest of the week.

Sure wish I had "like" button!


That's one of the strangest aspects to this. While I'm not sure they are promoting anything new, they offer a range of products that are 'special' use and application: cleaning tools, environmental housings, solar kits, etc...

There's plenty of ambient interest surrounding the proper use and deployment of those products. We've written a handful of posts this past year on Dotworkz offerings like 'waterproofing cameras', 'cleaning domes' and 'solar kits' that have gotten interest just on their own merit. Why not offer hands-on training into specification and install of Dotworkz gear rather than cutsheet-level banter over cocktails and eyecandy?

As others have pointed out, booth babes (and yes, Margarita, that's what they are universally known as, unfortunately) are more of a 'trade show' thing than they are a 'security industry' thing.

I'm no marketing or PR expert (nor a woman), but it would seem that this Dotworkz 'Domewizard Party Girls' issue would be an ideal way to get some spectacular PR for The WSC by simply making a vocal stand against the practice. Perception being, it's more about taking a stand for what is right, rather than a concerted effort to banish the practice 'overnight'.

As it stands now, the lackluster, vanilla response by the WSC does nothing to advance their stated cause. Further, it may even contribute to undermining this stated cause if, by ignoring what at least some see as blatant sexism, they fail to take any stand at all.

I wonder what it would take publicity-wise for one of DW's unofficial "partners" aka camera manufacturers to denounce this sort of practice and if they would change their course? For example, I'm curious what someone like Bodil Sonesson feels about events like this where her corporate logo is almost sure to be seen on marketing materials at this event. I'd love to have the connections to ask her... To the Twitter machine!

Marty, look at the poll results so far. Only a slight majority agree that the event is sexist despite the fact that the article makes the case for it.

If anything, I would say the WSC is PR savvy and realized that this would be a dangerous situation to wade in, one that could cause them far more damage with the powers that be. One senior industry woman (not in the WSC) once remarked to me that if a woman complains in this industry, powerful men will label her 'whiney' and not want to associate with her. While I am disappointed the WSC does not take a firmer stand, I can appreciate the real risk they face in doing so.

I hope this dialogue and the resulting attention helps organizations like the WSC make progress.

One senior industry woman (not in the WSC) once remarked to me that if a woman complains in this industry, powerful men will label her 'whiney' and not want to associate with her.

Thanks for saying that John, I originally stated that very same thing in my post earlier then opted to take it out for fear of being mis-understood. But it really has been (historically) the case when women bring concerns/issues like this up.

I was checking out Dotz and thought what an interesting site. Too bad they had to resort to the booth babe thing.

As Marty pointed out... it isn't just the security industry that suffers this problem. It really is the male dominated industries that women are trying to break into that have this type of "useless" marketing occuring.

Oddly enough I was reading through a SoW for a construction project and saw that there was a requirement where it would not be tolerated to do "catcalls whistles" and similar or the contractor would be fired. I thought wow, they are getting serious! It was nice to see that that type of funny business would not be tolerated.

My final note for the night:"Legendary"??? Seriously. Really watering down that term, eh DotWorkz PR department?


I completely agree with your thesis - that is exactly why they don't. And I get their reasoning - I just happen to fundamentally disagree with their strategy regarding 'changing the rules'.

Bargaining from a position of weakness (not wanting to appear 'whiney') mandates your permanent occupation in that position of weakness.

Given an opportunity to bargain from a position of strength (this will not be tolerated in our industry!) and failing to capitalize, mandates your permanent occupation in the position of weakness.

People (both women and men) will follow (and champion) those that occupy positions of strength. It is innate.

To play by the very rules that were created to keep you in a position of weakness mandates you will forever remain there.

Change the rules.

It is not sexist. It is just a marketing ploy for weaker industry product. Sexism means discrimination on the basis of sex. These women want to do this. In fact, it is giving them a paycheck.

About 3-4 years ago, I saw the women at ISC West getting pictures with Ponch dressed in uniform.

Should we ban alchahol at these events also? This could possibly offend a majority of non-drinkers and former alchoholics.


Based upon your statements you'll obviously never get it until you have a daughter that gets turned down for a promotion because she doesn't have a good golf game and it would be uncomfortable to take her to a strip club.

Alcoholism = Female Gender.... great analogy. Maybe you can recommend a 12 step program for Margarita (happy accident). Better make it a 6 step program, we know women probably don't have the willpower to go through all 12 steps without a man's help [/sarcasm]

Last edit: Also "Ponch"??? He was probably 60 at the time. Also he was a pretty big hero of men, of both persuasions from what I've heard...

Dotworkz are hawking “Fancy Paper Towels” attached to metal fingers: In and of itself not a very “sexy” product. I would imagine that they will do whatever it takes to get some traction in their booth and at their “VIP Party”. As Brendan Behan said: “There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary”


I do have a daughter and find your statement is without merit concerning booth babes.

I don't even have a good golf game yet I succeed in business! How many of us business professionals have been to a strip club with business people who we have just met or have even known for a while??? Since when did ISC West get a strip club? Is this strip club totally nude or do they have bottoms on with pasties?

Being a booth babe is just a job for a small percentage of men and women. Many of these men and woman...this is their best way to make a decent income. To compare booth babes to strippers in a strip club is probably pretty offensive and sexist.

My point is...this subject is overblown like most things in today’s world. You are demonizing the women of ISC West for wearing a swimsuit in a booth? What will we demonize next?


Way to try to be cocky and to flip things around like a Philadelphia lawyer.... Nowhere did I say Alcoholism= Female Gender. I was suggesting that while you have your pitchforks might as well go after everything else.

Being a Booth Babe is not against the law. Ethics? We live in a country with thousands of ethnicities, hundreds of religions, and etc.. So exactly...who is the boss of Ethics? The answer to that is the consumer. If you cannot tolerate booth babes, then do not go to ISC West. What a few people have a problem with, should not affect/effect the vast majority who can think for themselves. I don't care for booth babes at ISC West and ignore them and the manufacturer that hired them. I can make that choice on my own without a small minority trying to make a choice for me.

If you think I'm annoyed that they are taking advantage of the Booth Babe or Lengendary Wand Women there's just no point to this...

Also maybe you should take up golf...

These are facts. Just thought I would introduce you to them.

The "Booth Babe" name is not the correct name. They are called Models.

How are they taking advantage of the "Booth Babe"?

  • Are they paying them less than the average of what the industry booth model makes?
  • Do men booth models make more money?
  • Is the Manufacturer talking dirty to these models while they are working?

PS...Your golf article is a joke. Who says women can't golf? My wife is a better golfer than myself.

Jeremiah, I am curious to your thoughts on how this impacts / affects other woman at the show? That is, not the booth babes but the other female attendees. Whether or not being a DomeWizard 'Party Girl' is helpful / useful to the few women who are hired to do this, are these promotions helpful (or hurtful) to the position of the other women inside the show?

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