Women criticise 'insulting' booth babes who use their looks to sell technology
Although the world of technology may be seen as primarily male, many women are becoming increasingly enthusiastic participants in it.
But the female writers, designers and engineers involved with technology are nonetheless much less visible than a more controversial group of tech-minded women – booth babes.
These are models hired to promote flashy products at tech shows, often in revealing outfits, and they are drawing the ire of more traditional technology enthusiasts.
Insulting Models show off new Nikon cameras at the Consumer Electronics Show
One female tech writer described the 'babes' as 'insulting, embarrassing and anachronistic', while another said they give a 'very inaccurate image' of the contribution women make to the sector.
Many men have been equally scathing of the practice, saying that it can deter customers by giving off a 'sleazy' impression.
But trade show bosses call the debate 'irrelevant', while the models themselves say that they try hard not to 'deter women' or be 'over the top'.
The argument was kick-started at the Consumer Electronics Show, which took place this week in Las Vegas, after BBC reporter Matt Danzico made a video which showcased the variety of booth babes manning company stalls and explored tech professionals' reactions to the phenomenon.
Demeaning Women like this model are more visible at tech shows than female writers, designers or engineers
Molly McHugh, a writer for Digital Trends, told Mr Danzico: 'I'm not sure if it's degrading so much as it is uncomfortable – or it's just confusing, because it's sending this message of what my sex is here to do.'
Taylor Hatmaker, another tech journalist, agreed, saying: 'I wish there was more visibility for women who are actually working in technology, not just hired to strut around.'
While one show participant interviewed in the video said he thought that companies which used models to promote their products was off-putting, others clearly disagreed.
A man was filmed at the Aquos store saying to a booth babe: 'Give me your number so we can discuss this later on tonight, OK'
Controversial: A nifty new gadget… displayed by a model
Gary Shapiro, CEO of the body which organises the show, dismissed concerned about the 'irrelevant' use of models.
'Sometimes it is a little old-school,' he said, 'but it still works. People naturally want to go to what they consider pretty.'
And 'Mercedes', a model working at the show, said that the use of booth babes should not put off other women, 'because it's not like a car show or something where you would dress really scantily clad – we're still in business attire'.
Olivia Solon, associate editor of Wired.co.uk, criticised the 'grubby practice' in a blog post written in response to Mr Danzico's video.
'As a woman who writes about technology, I find booth babes insulting, embarrassing and anachronistic,' she wrote.
'Most men are intelligent enough to appreciate a piece of technology without it being lubed up and rubbed over a woman's cleavage.'