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My epiphany at RSA 2017: Replacing Booth Babes Once and For All

To say it clearly and loud: “booth babes” not only cheapen the cyber security profession, the notion contributes to recruitment and retention challenges

Booth babes are seen as distracting, uninformed, unmotivated, and most importantly, they do not deliver results (in the form of sales leads.) As one woman put it, “…the pure hypocrisy of having technical fields express concerns about gender ratios and how to improve them only to go to technical conferences and have the predominant message to women be ‘you are a sex object’ and you are useful for selling stuff to the ‘Real Men’ who run the show…,” is problematic, to say the least.

I was reminded within minutes of arriving at RSAC 2017 that booth babes still exist and it really bothered me. I thought to myself, “I am working to attract women to join our community and this booth babe problem is still working against us!” We never eliminated the problem, we dressed it differently.

While checking in to get my conference badge at RSAC 2017, a colleague asked me if I wanted to hear what he had just overheard in his check-in line. He said, “Do you see that attractive young blond in front of us?” I said yes, and he told me that her conversation with the registration desk consisted of her explaining that she had taken a bus to get to the conference, had lost her ID and had no idea what booth she was there to work. I instantly asked myself, “Why!? Why is this our only solution?” I blurted out, “What a waste of an opportunity for our community. We should make it mandatory that vendors who need more staff utilize STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Math) students—and others—both men and women—who have a genuine interest in cyber security!”  This answer immediately came to mind, and I am thrilled to offer the following solution to the community and country I love so much.

#brainbabe is introducing the STEAM-Con Connection which provides a smart alternative to hiring marketing models. Use STEAM-Con Connection to hire STEAM students and other adults (both women and men) who have genuine interest in the cyber security and technology professions. Give future cyber security experts an opportunity to show you what they’ve got. I’ll bet you’re impressed with their energy, drive and enthusiasm.
Our Daughters Are Watching

To be serious about changing the gender gap and promoting women in STEAM, booth babes should be eliminated overnight and replaced with female and male STEAM students and other adults who are genuinely interested in technology and cyber security.

We must stop selling sexuality.  We must be willing to give all individuals the respect they deserve.  We must treat women the way we would like our daughters to be treated. When you hire booth babes, you hurt the credibility of all women.

Women are leaving cyber security and technology careers. Women do not have to “keep their heads down” and do great work while the rest of the world ignores and overlooks sexual harassment, as Susan J. Fowler described in her blog, “Reflecting on One Very, Very Strange Year at Uber.” Here is an example of a bright, young woman who should have thrived during that year in corporate America.

Instead, as Fowler wrote: “When I joined Uber, the organization I was part of was over 25% women. By the time I was trying to transfer to another eng organization, this number had dropped down to less than 6%.”

I was heartbroken and angry after reading about Fowler’s mistreatment in the workplace. I need to see action in our community. Every company is accountable. We need to stand up for our daughters and sons.

Visit the homepage for more info or to sign up for the STEAM-Con Connection.
#brainbabe Public Pledge of Availability.

Work a Con

You are a STEAM student or a person working in any industry who is genuinely interested in the tech and cyber security professions. You want to learn more about companies in tech and cyber security, you are willing to prepare for your convention assignment through research and training provided by #brainbabe.

Staff a Con

You are an organization or conference organizer looking for workers to staff your exhibit at a con. You are looking to #brainbabe to link you with STEAM students and interested parties who are available to learn about your organization, its products and services. You are interested in meeting the talent that could very well be the next rock star intern or hire for your team.

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