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Ask any marketing consultant and they will tell you that sex sells, in fact I can imagine the days when cavemen first invented fire they sold it as a way to make cave women warm enough to strip! But we are not cavemen any more so is it time we looked at more intelligent forms of marketing?
The main reason I ask this question is recently there have been more and more people in the SEO, computing and technology industry calling out the need for booth babes at conferences and asking how this reflects on women in the industry.
As both an ex model and an SEO, I have experienced being the ‘booth babe’ as well as the attendee, when I was a struggling university student I welcomed the fact I could make easy money by slapping some makeup on and smiling at conferences but how has this impacted the industry as a whole.
Sexualising women in the SEO Industry
The SEO and Internet industry is predominantly male – or it is men who are more vocal and proactive in self-publicity. You can say that because more men are in the industry that using booth babes or sexual images of women as marketing tools is attracting the correct demographic, but is this further alienating other women from entering the industry, and most alarmingly is it making these intelligent young men see all women in the industry as props rather than peers?
Jane Copland was the first female SEO brave enough to speak out about her experiences of women as entertainment at conferences where men seem to think that a woman attending is fair game. Since this post more and more women have spoken out about similar experiences and their concern about the way women are used and even the use of booth babes at CES last week has reignited the controversy. As an ex-model I also found a few extra doors opening based on looks, once I came into the SEO industry I was given more opportunities to go to conferences than my male peers, more client liaison and opportunities to get involved in sales. I knew at the time it was because they wanted a few girls that were attractive enough and wouldn’t scare off the punters and I got to go to the big conferences and see the speakers so what harm could it do?
The attitudes of men at these conferences were that I was there purely to be groped and gawped at they didn’t realise that I also knew as much, if not more than some of the men. It seems the overuse of booth babes has given people some sort of booth babe blindness where they assume any woman in a more male-oriented industry is part of the marketing and being paid to be nice to them.
Frat boy attitudes
Conferences and exhibits are for socialising and networking as much as they are for sharing products and knowledge, so a big part of most conferences is the drinks later on. I have no problem with people having a drink after the conference but this coupled with attitudes of women being the decoration means ‘frat boy’ and ‘stag’ mentality seems to go a bit too far. It comes to the point where women do not always feel comfortable or respected, the fact that one woman had to speak out first shows that women do feel they can’t talk about this. By not talking about it or pulling people up on it then people get away with it and it continues, and can very often spiral out of control. I’m all for a bit of fun but we need to remember we are professionals and what would our clients think of our behaviour?
Geeks will be geeks
One of the arguments for the use of women in the industry as marketing tools is that the men in SEO, computing, technology etc are geeks who are stereotypically ‘bad’ with women. With web design and marketing taking off with so many different routes are we right to label the men in the industry as geeks? I know plenty of men who are as confident and attractive as a sports person and guess what they can hold an intelligent conversation. Does this sound like a man who needs help with women? Of course, there are plenty of geeks, some are shy some are confident but it is the geeks that are making money and pushing the economy forward which is the inspiration for terms such as geek chic.
Labelling men as geeks is actually as bad a stereotype as assuming women are for entertainment so there is no excuse for using one to justify the other.
This is not the place to get into arguments about pay or equality in other areas but women and men have an equal right to be good at their job, there are a lot of good female SEO’s as there are a lot of good male SEO’s. It is the individual’s skills that make them good at their job, and as long as there is no weightlifting in the internet and technology industries there is no reason why a man would be better than a woman or vice versa.
Can Marketing evolve from the ‘Sex Sells’ mentality and should it?
Marketing can encompass many mediums and the only trick that seems to be evident across all platforms and demographics seems to be sex sells. It appeals to our more basic nature and maybe for the Jeremy Kyle generation it is a quick win that gets results.
However, we are talking about the technology and internet marketing industry I like to think that this area is very fast moving where your knowledge and techniques can be out of date in 6 months. Most people in these industries have degrees or the intelligence to teach themselves, they are open-minded to change yet we treat them like neanderthals. Surely the marketing teams targeting our industry at events or conferences can come up with something more appealing than a booth babe?
SEO needs YOU!
I know at Falkon Digital we are crying out for good individuals to enter the industry so in my opinion if women don’t feel comfortable in this area we will potentially lose out on the next Lisa Myers, Judith Lewis, Gabriella Sannino and many many more. And also lets have a bit of respect for our men in SEO, most of them are intelligent, witty and don’t need marketers to pay women to be nice to them.
What are your thoughts? Have I missed the point? Do you agree? Am I just glossing over the issues? Let us know in the comments…