By Kia Kolderup-Lane
Oh, patriarchy, you’ve failed us again. Today’s launch of Hot Tech Today aimed to bring a new, sexy twist to tech news as we know it. Instead, it reinforced all the accusations that the tech industry is creepy, misogynistic, and deludedly out of touch. Hot Tech Today calls itself a "technology news hub with a twist." "We incorporate beautiful women in bikinis ('Hot Tech Hotties') or similar revealing attire into all of our product and service offerings. We have a new model daily."
I liken Hot Tech Today to Playboy in many ways, as it objectifies women as nothing but sex objects, and while sex sells, this is not the message those of us trying to get more women and girls into Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) fields want to spread. We've all heard about the disappointing number of women in the tech industry and have seen the drop in the numbers of young women pursuing Computer Science degrees in college. Why put up another roadblock for women to jump over before we're considered equal to our male counterparts, especially in this male-driven industry?
What, you might be asking, is so freaking gag-worthy about this new mag? Ahh, let me count the offenses off for you.
The site’s homepage features a woman’s legs, bowed at the knees, with her skimpy white thong (branded in the magazine’s logo, of course) around her ankles. This is the image that has been chosen to personify the “sex appeal” of the digital magazine. The person who chose this photo has questionable ideas about what makes for good sex — Body? Face? Who needs it? As long as the legs look good and the panties are down, she should be good to go, right?
The tech industry has the potential to disrupt, revolutionize, combat (insert other buzz words here) some of the major challenges of our world today. And yet, it so often finds itself at the center of rhetoric and actions that alienate women, people of color, the GLBTQ community ...
The disembodiment of women to sell things is a practice that has long been criticized as dehumanizing. But the fellas at Hot Tech Today either don’t know that, or (more likely) don’t care, as long as those legs help them attract eyeballs. They’re betting their angel money on the fact that people not only won’t care that they’ve built a business on equating technology with the sexual exploitation of women, but that we’ll reward them for doing so. This, my friends, is what we call a false assumption.
The tech industry has the potential to disrupt, revolutionize, combat (insert other buzz words here) some of the major challenges of our world today. And yet, it so often finds itself at the center of rhetoric and actions that alienate women, people of color, the GLBTQ community, the homeless … anyone who isn’t in tech, and even many who are (myself included).
When I first moved back to San Francisco two years ago, I was surprised by not only the major presence of tech in my hometown, but also by the sheer lack of women and ethnic diversity within the companies setting up here. I began working in and around the tech sector and attended large conferences like TechCrunch's Disrupt, where I met teams of young startups mostly made up of men. I felt frustrated at first, but as I gradually got to know more people in the industry and got myself acquainted with organizations and companies like Women Get It Done, TechWomen,She Started It, Women 2.0, Hackbright Academy, etc., I found that while the current number of women in tech isn't huge, what these women are doing to empower and inspire future generations is extremely substantial. These organizations work tirelessly to engage females of all ages, to inspire them to be the next big Marissa Mayer or to found the next Twitter – so why ruin that with such a ridiculous magazine that works against everything these groups are trying to do?
Hot Tech Today trades in old stereotypes about women and sex that we're working so hard to move beyond. But I also find it horrifying that one of our own, a woman named Erica Williams, is one of the magazine's co-founders. I have to wonder if she believes her company is empowering for women in any way, or furthermore is valuable to the advancement of women in the workplace?
From San Francisco's progressive organizations through the White House's program "We the Geeks: Women Role Models," we want to encourage women in tech, not objectify them. Women are slowly, but noticeably, growing more powerful in the tech community. If Hot Tech Today wants to be any kind of authority on the latest news in the industry, it would do well to recognize that and portray women accordingly.
Note: This piece had additional contributions from Hanna Johnson