RSA Conference bans ‘booth babes’

In what may be a first for the technology industry, RSA Conference 2015 next month apparently will be bereft of a long-controversial trade-show attraction: “booth babes.”

While RSA does not use the term “booth babe” specifically, language in this year’s exhibitor contract makes clear what style of salesmanship is no longer welcome at this event, according to a post by security expert Bill Brenner on the LiquidMatrix blog. That language reads:

All Expo staff are expected to dress in business and/or business casual attire. Exhibitors should ensure that the attire of al staff they deploy at their booth (whether the exhibitor’s direct employees or their contractors) be considered appropriate in a professional environment. Attire of an overly revealing or suggestive nature is not permitted. Examples of such attire may include but are not restricted to:

  • Tops displaying excessive cleavage;
  • Tank tops, halter tops, camisole tops or tube tops;
  • Miniskirts or minidresses;
  • Shorts;
  • Lycra (or other Second-Skin) bodysuits;
  • Objectionable or offensive costumes.

These guidelines are applicable to all booth staff, regardless of gender, and will be strictly enforced. We reserve the right to request that individual booth staff change their attire or leave the premises immediately if we feel their appearance might be offensive to other exhibitors or attendees.

I’ve reached out to conference organizers to see what prompted the decision, though that may seem obvious to those who have followed the increasingly heated debates about “booth babes” over the years. (Update: See RSA's reply below.)

There’s even a Wikipedia page devoted to the practice and controversy, though that page demurely refers to “booth babes” as “promotional models.” The gaming conference PAX has had a ban on “booth babes” for years.

Reaction to the RSA ban has been positive, at least on Twitter, though not without snark:

032615blog rsa tweet1

And a colleague here at Network World raises the question of whether RSA’s ban might lead to a slippery slope: “So are they going to give some shapely tech exec crap if she likes to wear short skirts?”

I doubt it – the Potter Stewart test should suffice -- but the proof will be on the show floor.

(UPDATE: Reply from Linda Gray, event manager, RSA Conferences: “We felt that including this language in the exhibitor contracts was the best way to ensure all exhibitors were made aware of these new guidelines. We thought this was an important step towards making all security professionals feel comfortable and equally respected during the show.” They have yet to receive any complaints, Gray says.)

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010815blog internet pipes Erik Solheim

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