Techweek has only been around for four years, and there are already a handful of examples of the organization showing subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, instances of sexism.
The most recent example comes today as many in the Chicago tech community have expressed disappointment/disgust/appall with Techweek Chicago’s promotional email that shows pictures of scantily clad women in provocative poses. Blue Sky has been all over this, reporting that several leaders in Chicago tech, who are men, have asked to be removed from the company’s annual “Techweek 100” list following the sexist email, and Pando Daily published a piece of its own. Blue Sky also followed up with several women, including Jelly Vision CEO Amanda Lanert, who said she will use this as a talking point during her Techweek Chicago discussion on women in tech, which takes place on the final day of the conference.
And Crain’s has already announced they are out as a sponsor.
Techweek Chairman Iain Shovlin apologized for the email in a post on Techweek’s website. And he even bolded we sincerely apologize, so you know he means it.
Sexism in the technology industry has been well documented. Really well documented, actually. It’s certainly not a secret that women are vastly underrepresented in tech companies, and sexual harassment has been a far too common occurrence. There’s even a wiki timeline dating back to the 1970s that chronicles sexism in “geek communities.”
So with all of that knowledge, it’s hard to imagine how Techweek could send out a promotion that is so obviously wrought with sexism. But if you’ve seen some of Techweek’s antics in the past, this might not come as much of a surprise.
Last year Techweek Chicago held a bikini fashion show and posted a photo from Instagram, which Chicago Now was able to grab before Techweek took it down after a barrage of criticism. But before it was removed, Techweek wrote: “We assure you that all the models in the show are over 18 years of age,” further showing just how oblivious they were are to the actual problem at hand.
In 2011, in a bizarre rant from Techweek speaker Penelope Trunk, the author and businesswoman said to the crowd: “You never want to be in a room full of women. You never want to be at a women’s networking event … In general you never want to be in a room with all women and, here’s a great tip, you never want to pitch with more that two women.” She also talks about ovaries, getting pregnant at 29, and wanting to work part-time at 35.
If anything positive can come from this, it’s gong to be Techweek’s “women in tech” panel at the conference. It might be the most well-attended panel at the event, and hopefully there will be an honest, in-depth conversation about common instances of sexism in tech. Techweek might learn a thing or two.
(On a complete side note, a black tie rave sounds fucking terrible. Oh, and “1st Annual” is not a thing. It can’t be “annual” if it’s the first. The word you are looking for is inaugural. Way to dump poor grammar into your sexist ad, Techweek.)
And here are some reaction Tweets to the ad:
— Ali Trumbull (@atrumbull) June 4, 2014
— elisabeth (@oh_elisabeth) June 4, 2014
06.03.14 > Tues. > NO, People don’t need to lighten up on subjects that are sensitive to Women, Minorities & http://t.co/DwjzNWFeY5
— Michael Sykes (@ClientSoftInfo) June 4, 2014
It sure does warm my cold heart to see all the people calling out Techweek Chicago on their bullshit.
— Kevin Harriss (@specialKevin) June 4, 2014
“Techweek has been listening to some concerns in our community. •” Gave them a chance but got this. pic.twitter.com/poKTHOSuF5
— Scott Hughes (@DottedT) June 4, 2014
Techweek is an embaressment for Chicago, where we believe in hard work, not discriminating against women, and keeping our SQL servers online
— Max Temkin (@MaxTemkin) June 4, 2014
Yeah, the Techweek website crashed. Karma is awesome.