So about this whole being a woman at CES thing.
Me failing my audition as a booth babe for Ferrari.
I had a great time in Vegas. It was productive, it was fun, I ate way too much wagyu beef at Nobu; I watched the scariest people in Nevada dance to the cover band playing Jane’s Addiction at the Mandalay Bay (Jason Avant has the photo evidence); I was referred to as a “twenty-something” (whoo-hoo!); I spoke on a panel with some amazing women; I learned a ton about new technologies and products; and I won back all my money at some Wheel of Fortune Slot at the Venetian with social-media-forces-to-be-reckoned-with, Kristen Chase and Laura Mayes.
(PS if you ever want to win like millions of dollars in roulette, just put your chips wherever Laura puts her chips. You’re welcome.)
Turns out the booth babes weren’t my biggest issue. Yes they were there; some who forgot to wear clothes completely that morning (oopsie!) some simply wearing belts for pants, like the ladies above. Although one did say she liked my tights so I give her a pass.
Mom101′s Wardrobe: Stripper-approved!
So yes, some companies thought the best way to get attention was to pay strippers to act like strippers outside of their normal gig at the strip clubs. I sympathize mostly for female tech writers for pubs like CNET and Mashable who have to cover those brands either way. As for me, I’m lucky that as my own publisher, I can simply choose to never cover those brands ever. So there’s that.
My bigger issue was how we were treated on a few rare but noteworthy occasions.
Now let me be clear: 99.9% of the people we met at CES were awesome. Beyond awesome. Big companies you’ve heard of and little ones you haven’t–they all took the time to thoughtfully demonstrate their products, answer questions, ask about our site, trade cards, shake our hands firmly, look us in the eyes. You’ll be hearing about them all on Cool Mom Tech over the coming weeks.
Really, it was like any other trade show in any other industry that I’ve been going to for seven years now.
One of the very first booths we stopped at Tuesday morning was a company which makes mobile charging cases that they only wish were a fraction as good as the Mophie. I had been sent a press sample for review consideration recently and couldn’t get the damn thing off my phone–nor could Nate. So I looked forward to talking to the them about what we might be doing wrong or whether we had an odd faulty case.
“You must be afraid of breaking your nails,” old grey-hair eats-a-lot-of-bacon guy sneered at me.
These being my very beautiful nails right now.
Nate’s are worse, just for the record.
I thought Kristen was going to throttle him. (And she could have. She’s 5’11″ without heels and eats way less bacon.)
Then finally, one of the gentlemen in the booth was kind enough to take out his phone and with a big sigh started to demonstrate to me…that he was incapable of taking the case off his phone as well.
He passed it to a second guy who also couldn’t open it, then onto a third guy, who asked me whether I was following the instructions, and putting my finger here, in this groove to pry it open.
“Yes,” I said. “Just like the directions.”
“Oh, well, see you need to do it this other way. It takes some practice.”
“So basically my problem is that I was following the directions on the box.”
Old eats-a-lot-of-bacon jumped back in with the genius retort, “Hey, ladies! Why would you even want to take off the case anyway?”
(I admit in fairness I may have had some extra baggage with him because he reminded me of Karl Rove.)
“Well,” I said, “I’m a technology editor and I often have to try other cases and docks on my phone besides yours.”
Next, I asked him some perfectly valid manufacturing questions, like why their cases were built without raised lips which tend to protect the screen from falls. He practically scolded me for my ignorance, “well geez! A case is meant to protect the SIDE OF THE PHONE, not the glass. THE SIDE OF THE PHONE, RIGHT HERE! [bang bang bang against the table] I mean, if you throw your phone face down onto a…a…A POINTED ROCK, well of course the case will break!”
So there you have it.
Do not ever throw your phone face down onto a pointed rock, ladies.
Or if you do, make sure you’ve got an Otterbox.
I took lots of notes to be sure to share that excellent advice with all you stupid women who might be thinking of throwing your phones onto pointed rocks. The product, however, I will not be sharing with you.
I’m sure you understand.
Uh, which side goes against your ear again?
Later that day, Kristen and I had another interesting conversation with a company trying to convince us to write about their WORLD CHANGING SERVICE THAT THE WORLD HAS BEEN WAITING FOR: the ability to watch YouTube videos together with another person over the web.
“Who is this for?” Kristen asked thoughtfully.
“70 MILLION people, ” the guy spit out, as if he were really saying, “70 MILLION people, dumbass.”
“I know how many people use YouTube,” Kristen said sharply. “But who would use this? Who is your audience? Teens?”
While the first guy started babbling about Gangnam Style (because if there’s one video 70 million people really need to keep watching over and over–with friends–it’s that) another jumped in with an idea.
“Say the husband is away on a business trip. Mom is home with the kids, right? He misses the ballet recital. You can upload it to YouTube for him and watch it together.”
“You mean, if say…Mom is away on a business trip? Maybe at the CES Show at Las Vegas, while Dad is home with the kids?”
At which point I realized that I had headed out of the house that morning, forgetting to take off my other six heads.
Kristen dumped their business card on the next empty cocktail tray right in a pool of spilled gin and tonic.
Walking around the day of my panel–a panel called “Don’t Call Them Mommies,” which we somewhat facetiously named in response to the name of the “Mommytech” track that it was on–I realized something simply by looking around:
At least they’re not all white?
Dudes. Lots of them. So I checked the website to see the list of all the keynote speakers throughout the conference.
All super talented, qualified, amazing people in tech. Even, whoa! Will.i.am!
But…was Sandy Carter not available? Sheryl Sandberg? Marissa Mayer? Carolyn Everson? Jane Moran? Susie Wee? Cher Wang? Judy Estrin? Maxine Fassberg? Virginia Rometty? Susan Wojcicki? Ursula Burns? Theresia Gouw Ranzetta? Any of the super talented, qualified amazing people in tech who don’t have penises? Hm.
No wonder the wimmins walking the floor may seem like some lesser life form not worthy of serious conversation to some of the menfolk behind the booths. Or at least those of us walking the floor who weren’t even naked or serving drinks or serving drinks naked.
Tech marketers and conference track programmers, I have some really simple advice for you: It’s time to move on from 1954. If not for feminism or for social good, you need to do it for your own business.
According to research from the very organization putting on the show, women spend more on tech than men. They’re involved in 89% of the consumer electronic purchase decisions. They own smartphones and digital cameras and laptops and tablets. They buy apps like crazy. And you know? They’re writing about technology too.
I can guarantee that if Lindsey Turrentine or Molly Wood or Xeni Jardin or Jolie O’Dell decide your product is a great one, you will sell a crapload of them. Enough even to pay for lap dances for the whole sales team.
On Wednesday I spoke on a panel with accomplished entrepreneurs Danielle Wiley, Kimberly Blaine, Rebecca Levey (who also wrote this great post about all-male panels) and Lori Schwartz about brands and successful online businesses run by mothers. In it, we all had a good little chat for oh, the sixth year in a row, about why we don’t want to be called mommybloggers. (Thanks Lori for asking the question.)
Just before the session ended, I suggested to the audience that maybe by next year, Mommytech would be called ParentTech which is more inclusive and less condescending. There was a rousing round of applause. Mostly from men. And I didn’t even have to say it wearing pasties.
It won’t be changed, of course. But I feel good that I said it.
I wonder what will be changed at CES though.
Oh, here’s an easy one to start with: If a tech publisher tells you she has four children, the correct response is pretty much anything other than, “Wow. You must have a lot of sex.”