Guest Post by Menekse Gencer
I spoke at the State Department on mobile money and food security last year. Subsequently, the State Department contacted me to ask if I would be a mentor for the TechWomen Initiative. Although I thought the program was really interesting, I didn’t think I would have time to participate because I run my own business.
I set the invitation aside.
Soon thereafter, I went to Orlando for CTIA, the leading wireless conference in the United States. When I returned I saw that IntoMobile, a website for wireless news, had written an article on “The Women of CTIA: 2011.” I thought that the article was about mobile executive women who attended the conference and their accomplishments. I was interested in knowing who these people were and thought that there may have been a meet up at CTIA that I had missed.
When I read the article, it was about “booth babes,” models who are hired by companies to display their products at the exhibits. The article displayed pictures of these women, scantily clad and gesturing to men in seductive ways to come to the booth. Basically, IntoMobile was using sex to draw eyeballs to its site. I was offended. As a woman who is a minority in a male-dominated field, I already face obstacles. I was reminded that these types of articles simply throw salt in the wound.
I reached out to the author of this article and wrote, “Hey, there are women in mobile who have multiple PhDs, who are working to eradicate health problems, on education and financial inclusion – why don’t you write about that them instead of ‘booth babes?”
He appeared not to understand why I was offended and didn’t see that there was a problem in what he was doing. After this episode, I realized that if I care about this subject so much, then I should make the time to get involved to change it. I reached back out to the State Department and asked if I could participate in TechWomen. It was time to make change happen. The more women executives in the wireless and technology fields, the more we can influence and eradicate this type of “booth babe” phenomenon in the future by pulling funds away from conferences that support this type of chauvinism and remind corporations that women are their customers as well.
Menekse Gencer is the CEO of mPay Connect, a mobile payments consulting service. Prior to launching mPay Connect, Meneske served as the Director of Mobile Payments, PayPal. Click here to learn more about Menekse’s experience as a TechWomen Mentor.