The practice of employing underdressed women to shill gadgets at trade shows — like this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles — is increasingly coming under fire as both sexist and antiquated. Last week, for example, computer manufacturer Asus was blasted on Twitter for posting a shot of a "booth babe" from a Taiwanese event holding a tablet, tweeting that the view from behind was "pretty nice." (The company has since deleted the tweet and apologized.) A new article in IT World says that the models are often hired to stand for upward of eight hours a day in heels, only to be paid somewhere between $100 to $170. "You have to look happy all day and smile, but it's not that easy," says former booth babe Eileen Lee. "It gets very tiring." Is it time for the tech industry to leave its Maxim-inspired days behind it?
Yes. This tactic is unnecessary: "You'd think that companies rooted in rationality might ask themselves whether this sales tactic is quantifiably stellar," says Chris Matyszczyk at CNET. It's not like some tech CEO is saying: "Sales are down 20 percent. We need more booth babes at CES." At this year's event, for example, two bikini-topped ladies were forced to dance in a booth at a very early hour in the morning. "The women looked so drained of life's electrolytes, that one wondered how this could possibly be helping [the company's] business." It's time for the industry to rethink its ways.
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But being a booth babe is a real job: More and more young women want to do this kind of work for a reason, 25-year-old model Ashley Hsu tells IT World. It's a good part-time gig, especially for girls still putting themselves through school. "It's easy to do, you can make money. You just need to talk to people and get your picture taken. I'm seeing a lot of people wanting to do this part-time."
"The life of a 'booth babe': High heels, long hours, and leering visitors"
How about some equality?: Here's an idea for next year's E3, says Stuart O'Connor at the Guardian: "For the sake of balance, how about some booth boys too?" The bikini-clad ladies at June's event already looked "out-of-place," and when you took a look around, "you notice that almost half the people attending E3 are women — media, industry PRs and yes, even game developers." After all, the kind of die-hard fans who attend these trade shows attend for "one reason and one reason only." And it isn't for the eye candy.
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