We spent this morning at the Fort Myers boat show, which was very much diminished because of the economy. It was very unlike our own 2009 HR Technology Conference, which was overflowing with vendor booths and full of energy. But what really struck me as we walked through the boat show was how far we’ve come in gender equality in HR technology.
Years ago, the folks doing our tech demos at conferences, then called demo dollies, were just that: attractive, young, primarily nubile ladies with a limited grasp of the architectures or object models of their products (you thought I was going to ask them how to do an address change?) or of the dynamics of our industry. And all the real dealing was done by men.
Fast forward to 2009, and there’s no reputable HRM product or service vendor whose booth attendants don’t reflect well on their companies. They know their products and demo them well, and they are as likely to be men as women, young or not. And it’s just as likely that the sales or marketing executive will be a woman, although there remain very few women HRM software architects or engineering executives. Most important, whatever matching outfits are selected for those doing booth duty, they haven’t included high heeled, black patent leather boots in many years.
So back to the boat show. I really wasn’t surprised that most of the dealers are men, as well as most of the booth attendants for what are some very engineering-based products, like boat lifts and replacement engines. Now that I think about it, there must be a lot of people refurbishing older boats, because I’ve never seen so many booths featuring replacement engines, some of which were enormous. But the real surprise were the “demo dollies” in their shorter than short shorts, black high heeled patent leather boots, and “Hooter-style” T’s. And they weren’t alone.
The bottom line. Jobs are scarce, and perhaps “working” the boat shows pays well, but how very sad to see this in 2009, or sad until I thought about how far our own industry has come. Yeah HR tech!