Female CEOs Pose for Underwear Ads: A Step Forward or Back for Women in Tech?

Dear Kate lookbook causes stir

Is it controversial to be a CEO in your underwear?

Many brands have been changing the way they use models in their ads lately. Several have promised not to airbrush models, and one used only women with PhDs for a campaign.

Now, underwear brand Dear Kate—which has long used nontraditional models of all sizes for lookbooks and web images—is featuring prominent female tech-company founders and CEOs in their underwear for a new line called the Ada Collection (named for 19th century tech pioneer Ada Lovelace).

Critics say the campaign is a step back in the fight for women to be taken seriously, especially in a field known for being dominated by men. "Presenting yourself undressed has inherently sexual overtones, and undermines being seen as a serious technologist," Elissa Shevinsky, CEO of Glimpse Labs, tells Time magazine.

But Dear Kate CEO Julie Sygiel says this isn't your typical Victoria's Secret spread. "I think a lot of traditional lingerie photo shoots depict women as simply standing there looking sexy. They're not always in a position of power and control," she says. "In our photo shoots it's important to portray women who are active and ambitious. They're not just standing around waiting for things to happen."

Personally, I don't think women CEOs posing in their underwear is something worth clutching our pearls over. The lookbook includes smart, successful women, and the variety (women of color! plus-sized women! thin women!) doesn't feel like an afterthought. At the same time, the ads are certainly odd. Women coding together in their underwear? What? (The inspirational quotes on many of the images also make them way too busy.)

In the end, it misses the mark a bit, but points for doing something cool and different.

Recommended articles