Sexist minefield

Is it sad that whilst I'm at CES 2015 recent BCS campaigns keep coming into my mind?

Let's start with the Women in IT campaign we did last year. The problems women face in society in general are inevitably linked in with any industry specific situation such as ours. So when Henry, BCS Editor in Chief, and I were looking at an (impressive) display of 80 inch 4k TVs we were not surprised to see close-ups of roses lightly covered with water droplets, so far so generic.

But then the ladies started appearing. Initially beautiful faces, where you could clearly see the makeup in skin pores....perhaps this is making a subversive point, we thought.

Then, and this is not a joke (on any level), two lightly clad ladies appeared, pillow fighting. If it wasn't so awful it would be funny, summing up in a nutshell some of the issues to be addressed.

I won't mention manufacturers, but TV folks were far from the only offenders. An audio company had a cage dancer, all the IoT and wearable manufacturers seemed to have a thin attractive female on a treadmill (irony!). There was a lot of unconscious (?) sexism about.

I took a couple of photos of these examples planning to run them with this piece, but then felt weird about it. If I post those photos it would start to feel like the 'sidebar of shame' on a well known UK national newspaper's website. So they are gone from my phone, even though I originally took them with the best of satirical intentions.

It occurred to me that we could illustrate this story with a picture of Henry and me, but then realised THAT would be sexist in this context. Then I thought we could get our pictures taken with a female techie, or a female mover and shaker in the industry, and realised that would be patronising. Then I got confused trying to work out the implications, ethics and political correctness of the situation and my head literally exploded (not literally).

Anyway, this is why BCS works so hard on the ethical side of things. Long story short, there's work to do and we as an organisation are doing more this year.

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About the author

Brian is Head of Content at BCS and blogs about the Institute’s role in making IT good for society, historical developments in computing, the implications of CS research and more.

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