In January 2013, we took the Consumer Electronics Show to task for failing to adopt a dress code for exhibitors at the world’s largest gathering of the technology industry.
The problem was the use of booth babes. The Oxford English Dictionary helpfully describes a booth babe as, "a woman who is paid to stand for hours in painful high heels and skimpy clothes by a corporate body operating under the dated notion that tech products can't be sold without appealing to the worst elements of a perceived demographic."
To be clear, we don’t take issue with models being used to pitch products. Companies can hire all the pretty people they want, and pretty people can take on any job they want. Our issue is with how those models are dressed -- or not--and how they influence the already-doleful environment for many women working in tech. At CES in 2013, one company had booth babes outfitted in nothing more than body paint. So we were among those who asked CES to adopt ‘business casual’ as a dress code, or at least tell exhibitors their booth staff should be dressed in attire that echoes what their employees wear back at company headquarters.
Well, it looks like we’ve got some progress.
It's a challenge, staying relevant in Silicon Valley. Between the pace of change, the jargon and the unremitting need for everyone to demonstrate daily how smart and cool they are, Silicon Valley is all about living on a very cutting edge.
That may be why Dice.com, the leading online job board for techies, is struggling to stay relevant. Dice’s last advertising campaign (below) tried to speak coders’ own language by using coding language to spell out its message of “find a job on Dice.” Mostly, coders took the opportunity to 'find the error' and then write off Dice jobs as only for “bottom feeders.”
But Dice has reason to congratulate itself now: Their newest campaign (above) hits the bulls-eye. Although we can’t help wishing it didn’t. The ads are emblazoned with the headline “Find the hottest tech talent” and feature nerdy engineers wearing only their underwear and posed in sort of provocative poses. There’s a bespectacled Alex, a slightly pudgy Matt, and Arjun, in briefs rather than boxers.
Funny. Really, Dice. You have indeed succeeded in tuning in to part of the Valley culture. Too bad the culture you’ve finally tapped into is dominated by tools.
Who are the most productive people on the planet? We all know the answer to this one: working parents. (Frankly, I think the real answer is ‘working moms,’ but I’m trying to be open-minded.)
Yet I’m constantly seeing productivity tips from people who might run companies or marathons, but don’t seem to have that much insight into how the real world works. Pulling an all-nighter is not a productivity tip, because if you’ve got young kids, there’s no time to ever make up that sleep. Eating a breakfast of powerfoods is only going to get you so far. And the idea of essentially allowing interruptions, if you can accomplish the intruding task in less than two minutes, is insane.
This is what works for us.
Technology is your friend. The one who sleeps with your husband while you’re on a business trip.
I understand that most of our lives would fall apart if our calendars suddenly stopped syncing with those of our spouses. That an iPad can make a long car ride with kids suddenly bearable. That laptops with seven hours of battery life are indeed life-giving.
However. If Evite asks you to allow it to import an invitation onto your iPhone, you’re a fool to accept. Ditto if you show up at an Amtrak station without a paper copy of your ticket. There is at least a 30 percent chance that Evite will be an hour off by the time it gets to your phone, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to be in your home time zone when you accept. And I once missed an Amtrak train to Boston because the kiosk couldn’t read the code on my phone. The line to talk to a person was a mile long; the conductor would not let me on the train, and I fell out of love with the Acela, right then and there. When it comes to technology, you need a Plan B.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella really blew it earlier this month, when he said that women shouldn't ask for raises but instead trust that "the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along."
Women who don't ask for a raise will accrue "good karma," Nadella said at a conference celebrating women in tech. The implication: speaking up for yourself at work equals bad karma.
That's pretty lame advice for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that women at tech companies earn $6,358 less than their male colleagues, while women with at least one child earn $11,247 less than everyone else, according to a September report by the American Institute for Economic Research.
Nadella apologized for his cluelessness and said a review at Microsoft found there's no pay gap between men and women employees of the software maker.
That would make Microsoft the exception rather than the rule. Nadella did not provide any data to back up his assertion.
All of which makes one of my favorite One Thing New pieces, about how to negotiate like a women -- and win, newly relevant.
I'm a big fan of conference calls.
Working mothers the world over would agree that they are lifesavers. You can take a conference call anywhere, anytime, as long as you have enough bars on your mobile. Most important, there’s a mute button, which allows you to shush children (if needed), eliminate background dog barking or, if the call gets really painfully boring, do the dishes, start some laundry or just wander around and pick up the mess. You know, multi-task!
To make remote work even better, the zeitgeist has added video to the conference call, in the hope that geographically distributed work will now seem more like face-to-face communication. Google Hangouts, Skype and WebEx sessions are becoming de rigueur. And while I appreciate the technological achievement of being able to have face time with a colleague a continent away, the whole let's-talk-via-video thing can be a nightmare -- particularly when combined with the chaos of summer.
I had my first ever Google Hangout with two clients on a recent afternoon. It was baptism by fire. Technically, it was a snap to set up and start. But on all other accounts, it was perfectly awful.
First, I was completely unprepared for the “video” portion of the call. It was one of those days when I woke up at 7 a.m., threw on whatever and sat down at my computer. Kids wandered in and out of my work ‘area’ near the kitchen, grabbed their own breakfast and were then picked up by various camp carpools. Business as usual on a summer day.
I didn’t give my appearance another thought until I saw myself at the bottom of the screen after the call started. There I was: No make up, hair scraped back into an unflattering ponytail. And I couldn't get up and fix anything because everyone can SEE me, for heaven's sake! To top it off, my female client looked polished and put together.
What was even weirder was that I didn’t want to take a sip of my coffee or do anything other than sit and listen because, even though my image was reduced to a thumbnail when not talking, I still felt like I was in the spotlight. Think Brady Bunch opening credits. I don’t know about you, but at in-person meetings, I don’t sit completely square to my laptop without moving to keep my talking head visible to everyone in the room. Even worse, I learned that when I talked during the Hangout, my image jumped from a mere thumbnail to becoming the much bigger main image on everyone else’s display. Whose idea was this?
But being “on camera” every second was just the start. The call was scheduled for about 20 minutes before my kids, my long-time childcare provider, and her two children converged at my home to dump baseball/volleyball attire and equipment before grabbing snacks and swimwear and heading out. As I had never done one of these calls before, none of my daily cohorts had been ‘trained’ on how to interact -- or not interact -- with me during a video conference call.
Kids started arriving, the doorbell was ringing, the dog was barking. Suffice to say, it was a lot of noise. And I couldn’t find the mute button.
How do you mute an image anyway? My son popped in to say hi and give me a kiss and hug hello/good bye, which normally would have been lovely. But at that moment, I couldn't explain why he had to STOP! I was gesturing wildly for him to scram and leave me alone until I realized once again that my two clients could see me. Thank goodness, they were both relaxed enough to let it all slide. They even laughed good-naturedly at all the background antics.
The icing on the cake was when Leslie, the nanny, got in her car to drive to the pool and discovered she needed a jump start. This prompted ANOTHER interruption from my son, asking for keys to our car. Thankfully, Leslie knows how to jump a car, so no more was needed from me.
Untrained in video conferencing etiquette, I didn’t think to just excuse myself for a moment -- though if I did, something even weirder might have happened. My guess is that the bunny would have hopped up on the desk to sniff around. It happens.
IMHO, video conferencing is a classic example of attempting to use technology to solve a problem -- and messing it all up even more. But here’s a business idea: A tool that freezes your image and mutes the sound on a multi-party video call so you can get up and do stuff. Kickstarter anyone? -- Emily Brower Auchard
July 10, 2014
Missed our last issue? Here you go:
The Science of Summer
If you liked this story, you might also like:
Use the Cut: Play It Like They Do In Little League
Multi-Tasking Mania and the Art of Telecommuting
Be the Sugar Cookie
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Image courtesy of flickr user adactio