AV Can’t Afford to Turn Away Women
By Chris Heinonen on
While CEDIA claims that attendance was up this year (though only by non-exhibitors, which is a big caveat), it certainly didn’t feel that way. The space was smaller, crowds seemed smaller, and the buzz wasn’t quite as large as some prior years. As I was leaving the show and sitting at the airport I had a Twitter message come across from CEPro magazine, asking me to read their article on “Hottest CEDIA Expo Booth Babes” and was quickly taken aback.
CEDIA is a male dominated show. Most writers are men, most vendors are men, and most attendees are men. Of course some vendors are going to trot out women that serve only as eye candy to draw those people in to find out about their products. I doubt that CEDIA or CES are going to stop vendors from doing this, but CE Pro has no reason to be reporting on this and driving yet another wedge between women and AV.
There are many incredibly talented journalists, public relations associates, and other women working in AV that are as good at their job as men, or better at them. Articles like this serve to trivialize these women and make the attendees wonder if they are put in this position solely for their looks. Women attendees are made to feel that they are unwelcome in a world of men, and certainly are not their target audience. Women I know will come back from talking to vendors and mention that someone only looked down her body, barely making eye contact while talking to her.
With the struggles in the industry, why are we continuing to make it uncomfortable for half the population to attend and cover these shows, or to work in this industry? For many men, they aren’t making the final decision on items that go in parts of the house. These vendors maintain an attitude that turns women off from wanting to engage in this hobby, and articles like this only further it.
Reaction seemed to be swift and against the article, and as I search for it on Google now I can only find a cached version, so they seem to have removed it. However the author seems to think there is nothing wrong with it, and that we are just being overly sensitive and politically correct with our reaction. He also defends it with the idea of “We’ve done it before”, which is about the worst justification for anything. Do vendors at CEDIA continue to use a hard-wired remote, or install CRTs, because they’ve done it before? If your only defense for something is because you’ve always done it that way, then you likely shouldn’t be doing it that way anymore.
In recent years the Penny Arcade Expo, one of the largest gaming conventions in the USA, has taken to banning booth babes to be more inclusive of all genders, but the E3 conference still allows them. The success of PAX with this policy shows that a convention doesn’t need this to survive and that vendors can promote themselves without booth babes. We also have groups like Women in CE and Women in AV to serve the needs of the women that are in our industry and to help those numbers grow. Obviously strides have been made in this area, but it’s still not there.
I don’t know that booth babes make a person decide to work in AV or not, or how uncomfortable they make other female attendees at the show. To me, I already have enough trouble getting details and information about a company that I want to report on that I’d much rather they spend that effort focusing on making their booth presentation more informative, not just bustier. I hope that when I attend CEDIA in a couple of years, the idea of booth babes will be an extinct one and vendors will sell their products on merit, to an audience that includes the other half of the population.