Dear Arizona Drone Expo,
I get a lot of pitches. Events, Kickstarters, startups, conferences, you name it and I get a dozen pitches like it a week. But you win the award for the worst pitch I’ve ever received.
To be fair, I was initially excited about your drone expo a few weeks ago. You advertised a nice mix of seminars, new drones to demo and even a drone swap area. The expo admission fee is $10, which I appreciate considering the economic barriers to entry in drones are otherwise quite high (not to mention most conferences cost at least $100). It’s nice to see a conference not in San Francisco, New York or Las Vegas (because those cities have plenty of drone events). With a low cost and new region, I was excited that you could prove that drones are good to a new group of people.
And then, you did something pretty terrible, and you alienated half the U.S. population in doing it.
You are a private company, free to do what you want. If I don’t like it, I don’t have to go. I get it.
But you just took a huge step backwards in reaching gender equality in drones. Your ad states: “Come take a selfie with our beautiful DROPA Girls. Meet the ladies and find out how they can make a drone really take-off!”
This “booth babe” concept is not new to trade shows. But it’s still not okay. And I was optimistic this drone industry would be above that.
Sex sells. But do flying robots that stop poachers from killing rhinos in Africa or that deliver beer and pizza really need that much help selling? There’s no mention of the cool functionalities drones have on your site. There’s no mention of how I could buy a drone to take photos of me surfing or to inspect my roof.
There are 100s of women who have done great things for this industry (and built the drones you’re trying to sell), but instead, you’re representing us women as a piece of decor to take a selfie with? You have resorted to the most uncreative, low form of advertising for a product that has otherwise taken the world by storm.
If I were to go to this conference, I would feel objectified. I would feel like I would have to prove myself, and that I wouldn’t be taken seriously, because women are being marketed as selfie decor rather than as smart pilots and engineers. Your fellow male pilots often are befuddled as to why women aren’t interested in flying something as cool as a drone.
Here’s a secret: many women probably would love to fly a drone. They just don’t feel like they can be an equal member of this community when you’re going to treat them like your eye candy rather than a human who can fly one of these things.
I love this industry — the capabilities of drones, the many friends I’ve made through them, the endless opportunities for creativity. I can’t give up. I won’t leave.
But I also can’t act like casual sexism doesn’t exist, and I can’t just let it keep happening over and over again. That’s why I’m using this platform — my blog — to speak out.
And readers, I encourage you to do the same. Call out the tiniest casual sexism, because women are watching.
Drone companies and conferences, I’m not asking you to make 50% of your staff female. I’m certainly not asking you to sell pink drones. I’m just asking you to make this a community that’s inclusive, that all people can feel safe and respected in — not objectified.
P.S.: You took this picture of the “DROPA Girls” from the 2013 Seattle Seahawks Sea Gals calendar. Are they really going to be the ones in attendance?