No Bed of Roses

No Bed of Roses

Want more women in IT? Then stop treating them like sheilas.

Well, I'm back to sharing this spot with the publisher's panel. I gained some extra space a few months back when we moved it to the pages where we were listing CIO Executive Council members. Unfortunately, more than a few dogs (and I do mean dogs) sniffed an opportunity and started sending unsolicited e-mails to members. Tacky, tacky tacky.

So it's deja vu all over again.

But that's pissant deja vu compared to a recent turn of events where I was left with the rather uncomfortable feeling of having been sucked back to a time when men were men and women knew their place (apparently as party pals and eye-candy).

First off, a colleague passed along a press release from a self-described "bastion for blokes" that opened with: "The annual CQR Consulting Christmas Party is in for a shake-up this year as a result of the independent information security specialist appointing its first women to sales and marketing roles."

Well, of course. The end of year Christmas party is always a good reason to hire a couple of double-degree sheilas.

And things went downhill from there, with the advent (pun intended) of the IT Screen Goddesses Calendar 2006-2007.

Omigod, omigod, omigod . . . because, while you might be thinking screen goddesses such as Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Sophia Loren or Grace Kelly, these goddesses are, well, a bit more pervy. Instead, you get to ogle women in IT portrayed as characters in American Beauty (the rose petals scene), Basic Instinct (that scene), Dr No (the coming-out-of-the-water-in-a-bikini scene) and so on and so forth.

The rationale behind this? Here 'tis, straight from the Web site: "Fundamentally the key reason for producing this calendar is to raise awareness of females in IT via capturing media attention . . . We plan to do this by smashing through the geek perception by displaying a wide variety (jobs, age, nationality, roles and body shapes) of real women in IT fields . . . "

Well, of course. Now go take your clothes off.

Get rid of that geeky image by portraying women as sex objects. Makes sense to me. After all, why in the world would you want to even suggest that women in IT are professionals? Let's not even think about the more positive image we might project if we profiled the incredible women who are CIOs at major organizations - well, unless you put them in a string-bikini.

According to the purveyors of this "Screen Goddess" calendar, "now is the time to take 'drastic' measures to smash through barriers and perceptions . . ." Uh, pardon me one cotton-picking second here, a lot of us smashed through some pretty restricting barriers and perceptions some 40 years ago and no way we're going back to that place or time.

On a final note, evidently profits from the sale of this calendar will be distributed among organisations promoting careers in IT for women and girls. Personally I'm going to pass on buying a calendar, but I'll write a cheque for $500 to the first organisation contacting me which runs a program promoting IT careers for women.

Now go get some clothes on.

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