Jefferson Graham runs down the winners and losers of CES 2018.
LAS VEGAS — For decades, companies have recruited attractive women to draw attention to their products at CES, tech’s largest trade show.
The number of “promotional models” or “booth babes” — the term coined for women whose job it is to lure foot traffic at CES — has declined in recent years. But paid female models, sometimes clad in skintight or skimpy clothes, are still a fixture for this show, an uncomfortable reminder to some women in tech of the everyday sexism they encounter in the male-dominated industry.
At the Orion Car Audio booth, Ivette Flores and three other women in tight black and red outfits, with their midriffs bared, danced and posed for pictures for attendees who had wandered in to a section of the Las Vegas Convention Center featuring cars and stacks of speakers.
Orion general manager Edgar Cedeno, who hired the women at a day rate of $250, says it’s not about being sexist but about breaking the ice with conventioneers.
“The girls are giving out (product materials). My girls are well covered. They’re not showing more than they’re supposed to…nothing too sexy,” he said.
Flores would prefer to be called a “booth model” than a “booth babe.”
“You’re not always going to look this way and if you can find your way to monetize it without jeopardizing your character and having people respect your boundaries then you should do it,” she said.
A few minutes later, those boundaries were crossed when a man reached around and grabbed her buttocks as she took a picture with him.
That kind of behavior — which Flores said she quickly stopped — contributes to the pernicious sexism that women in tech say keeps them from advancing or even entering the industry at all.
The “Elephant in the Valley” survey found that nearly all of the 200 plus senior women in tech who responded had experienced sexist interactions, with 60% of them being subjected to unwanted sexual advances.