‘Booth babes’ and the S.T.E.A.M. professions

| January 27, 2014

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I spent this past week (Jan. 20-24) covering World of Concrete 2014 in Las Vegas to learn about the latest technology, see new and updated equipment and talk with manufacturers, contractors and agency transportation professionals.

My goal was to enhance my industry knowledge and build relationships. It helps me get a better understanding of the industry so I can speak and write intelligently. I think this adds to my credibility and is viewed as an attractive quality to those I represent.

However, when I was on the tradeshow floor I was a bit disappointed to see that some exhibitors are still hiring “booth babes.” Sure, it doesn’t hurt to have an attractive women to help draw people in. Hiring models to pass out literature is nothing new. If it helps draw in potential clients, that’s fine.

But at one of the booths I saw women dressed in hard hats, very low-cut tanks and extremely short shorts. The point wasn’t about making a good impression and trying to look attractive. It was about using a sensual image to draw in people.

I’m not surprised. It is Las Vegas, after all. It’s a city where everything is about glitz, glam and being as attractive as possible. I like to look good. I like to dress up and have people find me attractive. Who doesn’t like to look good?

However, I think it does a disservice to the industry to make women the subject of the booth. Sure, it wasn’t a jobsite, but I can pretty much guarantee that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) wouldn’t approve of the gear. I’m pretty sure you dress like I do for the transportation construction industry. I wear a hard hat (the girls at least had those on), steel-toed boots, long pants, a safety vest and protective eyewear, sometimes hearing protection and anything else required on a specific site.

This post isn’t meant to come off as a feminist, “hear me roar” type post. I don’t care about the short shorts. I have my own interesting fashion choices. It doesn’t bother me that someone wants to look sexy. What disappoints me is that it takes away from the real reason for the show.

The transportation construction/Architecture Engineering Construction (AEC) industries may still have a higher percentage of men than women. (I admit, I haven’t done my homework and don’t have statistics. I’m just speaking from being involved in the industry for the last 10 years.) However, thanks in part to an emphasis on Science, Math, Engineering, Art and Design, and Technology (STEAM), women are coming into the industry more and more – and many have important jobs in it.

As a female covering the industry, I have worked hard to become educated and to learn.

If someone tells me I’m attractive, I’m going to say “thanks.” As I approach 40 years old (I have a few years still left!) and have had two kids, I certainly appreciate it. (In fact, you’ll endear yourself to me. Insert smiley face here.) However, first and foremost, I want to be found attractive for my professionalism and industry knowledge. I think this is very important to truly represent the industry.

I’m sure to the girls hired to be at the booth – who I am assuming are not involved in the industry – this was just a job to them. But I want to be found attractive for what I know. I think it does a disservice to the industry to promote this stereotype. There is a time and a place for everything.

What do you think? Do “booth babes” even phase you? Do you think it takes away from the importance of S.T.E.A.M.-related professions? Am I just on a soapbox because I am lacking sleep from covering numerous press events and doing booth visits all week and need more coffee?

I’d love to hear your opinion about this or any advice you might have. Feel free to post a comment here or e-mail me at tinabarbaccia@gmail.com.

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