‘High Tech Women’ in Underwear Promo: #PRWin?

In case you’re the one person on Earth who missed it, the technology industry faces some demographic challenges: recent reports from top tech names like Facebook, Apple and Twitter revealed an overwhelmingly white and even more overwhelmingly male industry.

The ensuing conversation is already old hat to many who work in the field, but it still presents both big names like Google (which recently named Mindy Kaling and Chelsea Clinton to promote its “girls who code” initiative) and clients that go against this trend with a way to make themselves stand out to journalists, consumers and investors.

The latest company to win media attention is the bold underwear brand Dear Kate. Its latest “look book”, released online last Friday, starred a group of female entrepreneurs who work in the field.

Dear Kate

Two basic facts about this look book: 1) it has attracted a lot of attention for an unpaid promotion and 2) responses have been somewhat mixed.

First, conflicting quotes from TIME, one of the first major publications to cover the shoot. Dear Kate CEO Julie Sygiel:

“I think a lot of traditional lingerie photo shoots depict women as simply standing there looking sexy…In our photo shoots it’s important to portray women who are active and ambitious.”

Tech founder Elissa Shevinsky, from an earlier Business Insider post:

“Posing in your underwear undermines the message that you aim to be taken seriously as a technologist.”

From a review posted yesterday by Roo Ciambriello of Adweek, who makes a similar (if less critical) point:

“Personally, I don’t think women CEOs posing in their underwear is something worth clutching our pearls over…the ads are certainly odd. Women coding together in their underwear? What?”

This morning, participant Sarah Conley, who blogs for Style IT, told The Huffington Post:

“I believe that there needs to be serious conversation about size diversity without discrimination. And we’re talking about it, aren’t we? So this feels like a victory to me.”

One thing is indisputable: the look book has attracted a lot of attention without costing a lot of money. We can’t attest to its social significance, but we are big fans of this take on the larger issue at hand from yesterday’s Forbes interview with Margarita Noriega, head of social media for Fusion who doubles as your must-follow tweeter of the week:

“Women in tech is a framing device that has limited value. This is not to say that women are common in executive roles or even in any role in startups, but women are considered a problem with or without coding or executive skills. We live in a world where being born a woman is a dangerous proposition.”

The problem, then, goes well beyond our simple blog post and more in-depth pieces on the same subject. Noriega says that “What needs to change for women is for society to stop thinking of women as a problem.”

Will stories like the ones inspired by Dear Kate move that needle? Adda Birnir, who also participated in the shoot, told TIME:

“I think every one of the shots is really beautiful and empowering…If this makes a sexist investor that much more sexist, I don’t care.”

At the very least, we expect and hope this conversation to evolve in coming months and years. Progress is progress, however frustratingly gradual it may be.

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