Is it time for trade shows to banish 'booth babes'?

Parading scantily clad women around at technology conferences has become increasingly controversial, and some say it's time for the industry to grow up

"Booth babes" from the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo: The models that show off the latest in technology go through grueling days in skimpy clothing for little pay.
(Image credit: CC BY: Pop Culture Geek)

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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