July 17, 2019
By Walt Williams
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“Booth babes” are out. Sex toys are in.
The Consumer Technology Association announced Tuesday a series of policy changes to its annual trade show aimed at addressing criticism that the event is unwelcoming to women, including a new dress code that will effectively end the practice of exhibitors using provocatively dressed women to attract attendees to their booths.
The association’s CES is one of the largest trade shows in the U.S., but the event’s organizers have faced charges of sexism for a series of decisions that critics say demean women’s contributions to the tech industry. CES 2018 was criticized for a lack of female speakers in its keynote lineup while this year’s event drew ire for banning a high-tech vibrator that previously won the association’s coveted innovation award. But perhaps the most persistent criticism has been of CES continuing to allow exhibitors to use so-called “booth babes” while many other trade shows have clamped down on the practice.
A new dress policy will prohibit booth personal from wearing attire that is sexually revealing, which includes anything showing “an excess of bare skin” or “body-conforming clothing that hugs genitalia.” The policy applies to all booth staff regardless of gender, CTA said in a statement.
The association also announced it will include sex toys at next year’s CES on a one-year trial basis as part of the Health & Wellness product category. In addition, the group has partnered with the marketing firm The Female Quotient to promote gender equality at the event, scheduled sessions and a roundtable on promoting diversity in the tech industry, and set aside free exhibit space for startups owned by women and other underrepresented groups.
“CTA is committed to evolving and continuing to create an experience at CES that is inclusive and welcoming for everyone,” Karen Chupka, executive vice president of CES, said in a statement. “We worked with a number of external advisors and partners to update and improve our existing CES policies.”