“Now, you don’t punish anyone, Dutch or otherwise, for having big boobs.” is a famous quote from the UK Comedy “The Office”. In the UK this week there has been a “can sexy women work in IT” story in the news this week. Amazingly focused on a woman working in IT in my rural home town Bury St. Edmunds (which was one of the most surprising elements to the story – I thought I was the “only woman in IT in the village”!. The Office sketch is 15 year old and pre-dates the explosion in social media networking, the comical figure of David Brent discussing women’s bust size in the workplace actually seems to have come true.
Account Manager, Jayde at local security IT firm Foursys Ltd. (some sort of channel partner to Sophos and similar) is pictured with big jar of USB sticks and bottle of Champagne wearing quite a tight top, a stunning looking woman (with a larger than average cleavage area) and yes the picture would fall under what I’d personally define as “a bit sexy”. (It was for one of those guess the number of USB sticks in jar promo competitions).
The Actual Picture
Would I have used such an image, no – as the area of IT I work in is actually fairly corporate and Enterprise and it just wouldn’t suit my customers or technology partners’ sentiments (most people I work would be more interested in the datasheet on the spec of the USB stick than Jayde). However there are large swathes of IT where “booth babes” and product team visits to hooters are the norm with a completely different expectation of normal or eye-catching – an area of IT I try to avoid.
But that’s not one for me, her company used the image and promo on their corporate site so obviously it had been decided by someone as appropriate to their marketing themes and signed off.
The promo was posted on LinkedIn and subsequently attracted a lot of frankly staggering comments and behavior form both men and women; mainly about the size of Jayde’s chest. Whatever you think of the campaign I was staggered at the comments and frankly stupidity of many of those that commented. These comments were made by people alongside their photos, company names and job titles.
- If you don’t like a campaign: why would you comment on it – thus linking yourself to it on social media
- Who on earth would post “id like to guess how far up her a**e I could get the neck of that champagne bottle and empty the content into her a**e so she can drop it into my open mouth” (he didn’t use the ** – I added them); thus demonstrating to his employer and any potential ones some worrying lack of judgment as well as frankly poor punctuation and spelling construction!
- It wasn’t just a handful once they started hundreds of people seriously thought it was ok to make similarly tasteless comments under their own names and accounts linked to their employers!!! If you want to abuse random people on the internet surely you’d have the intelligence not to risk your own career and do it from behind an anonymous account. The sheer incompetence at the execution was disappointing!
Other weird things said
- A woman on twitter who said “this is an INSULT to all real female engineers in IT. Blatant attempt at going viral with a sexy saleswoman which contradicts!” … ummm she works as an account manager and at no point claimed to be a linux dev! It’s a role that is about understand your product portfolio and support processes really well and having done it is one of the hardest jobs in IT. I actually asked the woman (Jayde) to see her resume/CV on linkedIn and she’s actually got a lot of endorsements/recommendations for providing consistent and accurate support and product advice over a protracted length of time from multiple customers. At what point did women working in IT sales become valuable than “real female engineers in IT”?
- Comments demanding to know what Jayde or her employers were doing to help #womenintech… well employing women and giving them opportunities to grow their career whilst adhering to the UK’s quite decent equality legislation is the obvious one. I don’t like the implied message though that as a woman in IT to be serious/qualified to do your job that you also have to be involved in solving the gender imbalances of the world – yes a lot of us to volunteer or feel the need to get involved with and support community schemes like talking in schools etc. BUT at times I’ve felt the need to put that stuff on hold as its additional time on top of a full time job…. And anyway since when did not running a Raspberry Pi hackathon make it ok for a total stranger to offer to put champagne bottles in inappropriate places!
The real story
I’ve come to the conclusion that the real story here is that social media boundaries have become so blurred that it’s become ok to publically say things that you wouldn’t say in front of your mum, kids or grandma. To be honest I did screen shot as many of the comments as possible as regardless of the tastelessness of the comments I simply would never want a team of mine to hire someone with such poor judgment (and in many cases spelling, grammar and punctuation!).
What on earth do the bosses’ of those people who made the dodgiest comments actually think if they saw their staff making these comments associated with their company’s name…. truly boggling!
LinkedIn took the ad and the comments down, it seems to be because it was deemed to fail their acceptance criteria and was deemed spam (which is baffling as why it was accepted in the first place). Whilst I have to admit I don’t like the original promo myself – I do think it’s a shame LinkedIn have deleted the opportunity for everyone sane and normal in IT to avoid employing some of the muppets that came out the woodwork. To some extent they gained the advantage of anonymity that they were too stupid to have thought about… ho hum
Was it a viral marketing stunt
I’ve no idea, if it was it seems to have been extremely effective. I had never heard of FourSys and I live in the same tiny town!
Just a personal blog in no way affiliated to my employer, just personal thoughts and incredulity!