A few years ago, at a popular ‘FinTech innovation demo show’ in London, a Russian payments company brought out the scantily clad ‘Miss Russia’ to demonstrate how the audience could use their payments app to purchase her clothing line on the internet. Many people – men and women – in the audience were shocked. My own reaction, on Twitter (of course) was a simple ‘W.T.F. ??’. However, there were other reactions on social media … from men.
“Whoa, I’m paying attention to this demo!”
“Hello, Miss Russia!”
“Now, this is a company I like!”
It was all so tedious.
The demo’ing company’s excuse? ‘This is OK in Russia’. 😐 Yes, dude, but this is London and someone, anyone, from the event organiser, should have given you a heads up.
A few months ago (in 2018 – the 21st Century, mind you) a long running European banking conference opened with a welcome address telling the audience that there was ‘lots to do’ in the host city ‘including football for the men and shopping for the women’. 😐 And just this week – the last week of September (again, still the 21st Century – 2018) a scantily clad woman was photographed adorning an exhibitors booth at a blockchain conference.
All of these incidents ended up on social media. Most of them were sent to me (people know, I lend a sympathetic ear).
I tell these stories – not to pick on the payments company from a few years ago (whose name I don’t even remember) nor on Miss Russia (whom I’m sure is a lovely person, in real life – and wears more clothes) nor on the women who wear short shirts and high heels at blockchain conferences. This is aimed at event organisers. Those people who develop, curate and put on events – where men and women are invited – and chose (yes, chose) not to make their conference a welcoming environment for everyone.
As a woman – who attends, speaks at, and creates events – I know the wide variety of ways in which women are made to feel not welcomed at conferences. So-called ‘booth babes’ (admittedly a rare occurrence at FinTech events) are but one of many, fixable, elements that would change the experience of many women who don a badge or walk onto a stage in our industry.
From lapel mics – designed to fit inside pockets of suit jackets – to badges (sans lanyards) that perch elegantly pinned to the top of your breasts, to bar stools on stage – all of these things spell trouble for women. Bar stools are where I am taking a stand. Bar stools, on stage, for me symbolise all the ways in which event organisers tell women ‘you are not welcomed here’.
At FinTECHTalents we will have beer, music and FinTech – but we will not have any bar stools. We are officially a #NoBarStool event.
Why this particular piece of furniture you ask? (First off, if you have to ask – you are not a woman). I am 5 foot 6 inches tall. Not particularly tall – not very short. But I often wear dresses or skirts. The number of times I have sat next to men – who confidently sit with their feet on the floor (wearing trousers) while I am perched, awkwardly, crotch-level, with the audience – is not fun, for me. (Never mind women who are shorter than me.) I once saw a woman (a CEO no less!) fall off a bar stool – on stage. That is insulting. (and for the record – I know plenty of men who hate bar stools, on stage, as well.)
FinTECHTalents was always about welcoming the entire FinTech ecosystems to our community. It is our mission to make sure everyone is welcomed at the festival – no booth babes and definitely #NoBarStools (Laptop stickers coming soon)