At any IT event or tradeshow there will come the moment when, quite frankly, I just want to scream. This week, while at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, that moment happened half way through Hall 8.1 when I encountered the blank stare of the scantily clad booth girl. Yes folks, 2018 and people still think the way to sell complex data analytics is with a woman in a tight red dress, improbable heels, and no interest in the subject whatsoever.

And, bless her— why should she be interested in a career in technology? Less than 25% of computing jobs are held by women worldwide, while women hold only 11% of executive positions at Silicon Valley companies. In high tech industries the quit rate is more than twice as high for women at 41% as it is for men at 17%. In the IT sector, women receive lower salary offer than male counterparts for the same job at the same company 63% of the time.

Doesn’t look to me as if the IT industry is making work a female-friendly place.

I say that not as a bleeding-heart feminist. If women want to be part of this or any other industry they must earn it by being brilliant at their technology and their work, just like those of the male persuasion. That said, it would be a whole lot easier to earn your place in what I still consider the most important and transformational sector we have today, if your place in the industry weren’t automatically associated with the lovely, but utterly disinterested, young lady from the model agency.

Girls Who Code studies show that about 74% of young girls express interest in STEM fields and computer science but that does not translate into them joining the industry – only 18% of undergraduate computer science degrees are held by women. The industry is missing out on creativity and talent that is there for the taking, and we need it. There will be 1.4 million jobs open in computer science by 2020. There will probably be just enough graduates to fill 29% of those jobs. Less than 3% will be filled by women.

It’s time the industry really addressed this issue. It’s time to take gender out of the technology equation and to look for the best minds and the best skills regardless. And its definitely time to retire the booth babes.


Sara is the Global Technology Practice Director at Hill+Knowlton Strategies.