Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Advertising Matters

Today at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, the CEO of GoDaddy, Blake Irving, is on a panel for male allies. This worries me.  

From 1984 to 2013, the number of women graduating with a degree in CS sank from 37% of the graduates to 14%. GoDaddy may be singlehandedly responsible for a large portion of that decline. 

For years GoDaddy advertised their domain name services with disgusting ads that showed nerdy IT guys and female sex objects. The message was clear: IT is for men. Displaying sexy body parts is for women. The 2013 GoDaddy Super Bowl commercial was the most tasteless ad ever made, not to mention one of the most sexist. 

I like to compare this to the ads that I grew up with. The print ads from IBM and other mainframe companies showed glamorous women, solving interesting problems using computers! I wanted to be that woman! Well, maybe not the woman in the following photo, because she's a blonde, but the ad is intriguing because it shows a woman working on an IBM System/360. 

Check out this brunette, in an ad for the Control Data CDC Cyber 70 Series mainframe. I could be her! I'm a brunette. She's not in the ad to sell to men. She's there to convince women to join the rank of programmers, especially if they use CDC computers. (We had an Amdahl mainframe at the University of Michigan where I went to grad school, but close enough!) 

Like Control Data and Amdahl, International Computers Limited (ICL) created machines to compete with IBM. As was typical for the times, ICL showed women working on their computers in their ads.

Check out this picture of a woman working at NSA on an IBM 360. I want to be her! :-) 

I got this photo from a 1970s timeline at NSA. I suspect the photo might be an ad, not because the woman in the picture couldn't do the work, but because the screen doesn't appear to be on? :-)

I also like this photo from NSA showing a Cray supercomputer. Note that the women are discreetly dressed, working on the computers, and not kissing the nerdy IT guy (as the GoDaddy 2013 Super Bowl ad showed.)

The GoDaddy 2013 Super Bowl ad was so disgusting that customers fled from the brand, both women and men. The company managed to insult both women and men. 

After the 2013 ad, I moved all my domain names but one from GoDaddy. Ironically, is the one record I still have at GoDaddy but that was because I was planning to give up on the blog. Why write about women in tech if the industry is dominated by pigs like GoDaddy? Why encourage young women to go into a field where the women don't solve technical problems? They just show off their boobs. Why go into a field where your male coworkers will be pimply, out-of-shape geeks? 

Well, hopefully things will get better. Anita Borg Institute and the Grace Hopper conference will hopefully set GoDaddy on a track that supports the equitable treatment of women in tech. The male allies panel is actually a good idea, but the CEO of GoDaddy better start by deeply apologizing to women in tech.

In the meantime, I'm glad to see positive articles like this one from Glamour magazine about women in tech. Maybe soon we will start to see ads that show gorgeous women working on computers again. 


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