Is the Tech Industry Sexist?


The tech industry is forward-thinking in all areas except one: its treatment of women.

We are a species divided at the mid point between our two legs. There’s no question about that. Men and women, we think differently, most certainly, about each other. But now in the midst of our most modern human times where we see ourselves as evolved both in our thinking about our fellow humans and in the highly technological world we’re building, we are still predisposed to gender bias and exploitation, particularly in the burgeoning tech industry. But sexist? Really?

A recent Forbes magazine article reported on the recent CES (Consumer Electronic Show) where the examples of sexism seemed to be plenty. One of the largest and most well-attended shows of its kind, the show takes place in Las Vegas, a city steeped in a tradition of glamorous, or at least, half-naked women. The most obvious offender was the number of women working at CES booths that looked like your typical Vegas showgirls, according to the blog Mom 101 (as reported by Forbes) “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.”

And it wasn’t just the scantily clad showgirls at the tech booths that had CES flavored with oopswrongshow; the speakers and presenters rosters were largely male-dominated as well, even despite the fact that the show’s own parent organization has said that women spend more money on tech than men. Mom 101’s Liz Gumbinner writes: “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.” Forbes’ Tim Worstall adds an incredibly important point: “Women control up to 80% of all discretionary consumer expenditure. This is something the consumer industries realised decades ago and explains why it is always the women (read, the Moms or future to be such) in the advertisements who actually know what they’re doing. The men are a doofus of one sort or another, incapable of finding their own belt without their wife directing them to their own waist.” Gumbinner, a tech expert in her own right, was also met with startling comments such as some of the gadgets would “ruin her nails” and that old favorite, “you know, for the mom at home.”

Perhaps it’s our Mad Men obsession and the bygone era where women were convinced  content to be stay-at-home caretakers and dishwashers regardless of what they could—or would—be amazing at doing if given the chance. Worstall again: “This isn’t a feminist point in any manner at all. Indeed, it’s an anti-feminist one in many ways. There are indeed inequalities between men and women and one of them is that women have more influence over household spending than men do. Which means that if you’re in a consumer industry you’d better be doing what the other consumer industries do: market to women. Because they do still control, to a large extent, the purse strings.”

And if it seems unfair that women control so much of our spending, perhaps that’s because it’s still obvious that if left up to men, all the money would (clearly) be spent on strippers who most likely were wishing they could make nearly as much money doing something they felt a whole lot more passionate about. But then again, making men pay us to take off our clothes suddenly makes a lot more sense.

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Image: smswigart

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.