I did not sign a pledge (did not hear about this until today) to blog about a woman in IT I admire on Ada Lovelace Day, nor am I going to mention any women in particular in this blog post. I hope that I have always made it clear in my communication that I respect people based on their actions and nothing else. I do want to pick up on what I have noticed and tried to put an end to at conferences when I encountered it. I never blogged about this and probably I should have, but now that I am seeing that many fellow developers also feel its a hinderance (actually the biggest one) to create an environment where gender is not a factor in judging contributions.
What I am talking about is trying to "sex-up" the geek world. Trying to sell conferences by showing up pictures of sexy girls with laptops or worse yet the entirely pathetic concept of "booth babes" is really just plain stupid. If we as a community want to create software that matters to everyone, we have to invite every one to contribute as equals. Portraying us, the community, as people that only care to have women at conferences for their looks is offensive to us the community. And it sends the totally wrong message to women, who naturally feel that if this image is tolerated and accepted, it means that their insights and knowledge are not going to be appreciated (or at the very least will come second to their looks). I sure as hell would feel like this if conferences would only show up pictures of baywatch style beach buffs. So cut it out .. the same obviously also goes for presenters, where some think it spices up their talks to have a "hot babe" picture or make a sexist comment. And please call people out on this, where ever you see it .. be it a conference, IRC chat, twitter .. you name it.
I think Microsoft did a great job then at PHPCon Italia. The woman they put on their counter was all but caring about her looks it seemed ;)
But seriously, you have an excellent point here and I do agree. Companies/organizations that have booth babes like that really don't get it. But unfortunately still it works for lots of geeks.
On the other hand, I want to also mention something else. There was a bit of a fuzz when I used a picture of Kari in a sexy pose in my myphpbusters talk at PHP UK. I think making a fuzz about that is taking things a bit too far. I truely feel that as long as it is clear to everyone that this is meant as a joke (and fitting the theme), this should be fine. From the context it is clear that this picture is not meant as a stab against women at all, it's just a picture that is funny in the context of the presentation.
Well, I must say that at first I was a bit surprised by that picture in your presentation. I had seen Mythbusters a few times, but don't remember anyone with quite as much in your face sexyness (I am sure the male cast is shown frequently with wearing even less after some mishap). In TV its also a lot about women looking awesome and young, while men can choose between looking awesome and having a character face. Obviously it would be taking things a bit too far to expect us to revolutionize the entire media industry and I think over all the Mythbuster theme did spice up things in a good way. But maybe there is a way to have Kari looking a little less like the "sexness time filler" and actually contributing in a way different than the classic mom (cleaning up and taking care of bruises). Because I don't remember the men-women roles being quite as simplistic in Mythbuster.
But the overall point is that all of this should not be stuff we have to think about. It should be natural to see men and women in all sorts of different roles and sexyness is not a bad thing .. but I am sure that a lot of men would actually be less interested in talks if it would contain sexy poses (though a comic half naked one would be fine) of one of the male characters in Mythbusters. But then again men seem much less willing to accept such images than women (or is it just that women have no other choice?) ..
OMG how surprising that stuff targeted mostly at young men has images of attractive young women attached to it. Must be a conspiracy against women, fo' sure.
@Pies: Right, thats the thing. Its natural for marketing to target guys at conferences, since that is going to be most effect for them. But it also means that women at those conferences will feel shut out and unwelcome. So if we do want more women at conferences, we should make it an effort that such marketing efforts are not used or do not pay off when they are used.
Well, if advertising using images of attractive women are effective, it's going to be really difficult to phase them out.
Also, I don't necessarily want more women at tech conferences. Which isn't to say I'm against women, merely that I want more _people_ at tech conferences, I couldn't care less what gender they are.
If there actually are women that don't go to tech conferences because of the images used for advertising, well, maybe it's time to learn to ignore those images?
I mean, I'm all for making the world a perfect place of unity and happiness, but that particular issue doesn't seem to be very important.