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Female Tech Execs Pose Without Clothes In Underwear Ad Campaign

But does Silicon Valley's sexist stigma spoil a perfectly good ad?

It's no secret that Silicon Valley has a gender balance problem--both in terms of employee numbers and attitude--so when a group of female tech executives pose for an underwear brand's lookbook it raises a few more issues than comfort and style.

Underwear company Dear Kate enlisted such a group of models for its Ada Collection, named for tech pioneer Ada Lovelace, and immediately the campaign was being discussed through the lens of Silicon Valley's larger gender issues. Glimpse Labs CEO Elissa Shevinsky told Time.com, “Posing in your underwear undermines the message that you aim to be taken seriously as a technologist."

And it probably does, to some degree. Just as picturing an audience naked is a cliched tool for any nervous public speaker about to face an intimidating audience. The argument between empowerment and embarrassment is longstanding when it comes to successful women posing in various states of undress, whether for charity or sport.

The interesting thing here is, take away Silicon Valley's baggage, and you have an underwear ad featuring women of different shapes and sizes posing in a non-sexualized workplace environment (Dear Kate also has a history of using "real" women in its ads). Something that would be otherwise universally high-fived for its progressive tone and realistic vision. Does the fact these models happen to be successful in business actually make this ad worse than one that features models who are simply successful at modelling? If an ad company showed a bunch of tech men in their underwear would it be unanimous bro hugs?

As an ad then, it's really no different than the celebrated (and much less controversial) efforts that have provided the waterfalls of goodwill brands like Dove and Aerie have been basking in. Dear Kate just made the choice to use women from the Valley, as opposed to a more gender-friendly industry.

[Photos: via Dear Kate]

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24 Comments

  • Well this is a nice test for the "meroitic" Tech industry. If the boys who run tech companies really care about the "best and the brightest" then these ads would have no influence on their future career trajectory. If these women start running into workplace difficulties, then we can put the Silicon Valley Self-Righteousness nonsense to rest once and for all.

  • Ann Marie Kirby-Payne

    I think that the ads are fine, and I'd have no problem letting my daughter see them--they're far superior to the average underwear ad. I suspect that the real reason they targeted tech has nothing to do with the gender imbalance in the industry and everything to do with the fact that few women other than tech execs could or would plunk down $30 for a pair of underwear.

  • I agree with Elissa Shevinsky, quoted in the article: “Posing in your underwear undermines the message that you aim to be taken seriously as a technologist." Nothing wrong with underwear ads but context is everything. Male CEOs would never be asked to pose this way and if they were, it would be for humorous effect.

  • Brent Wittke

    I'm a tech CEO, and I'll pose in my underwear. We're in the middle of a funding round and, heck, I'll do just about anything for money at this juncture.

  • Bryan C. Winter

    At the risk of sounding like a sexist man, your a sexist lady.

    I like a pretty girl as much as any other man, but I'm not gonna hate. I'm happy to see the crowd agrees.

  • Don Mercer

    Ask the professional people who work for them whether their respect for their leadership increased or decreased as a result of posing in the ad.

  • Dorothy M Neddermeyer

    BRAVO!!! And Congratulations. Women who know their worth....they are noteworthy powerful women even in their skerries. 'er underwear.

  • An ad for women to women... No problem. I'll be Google searching each one to read more about their careers. As a father, this is the kind of ad I'd show my daughter and say, "None of these women are models. Be smart about your career choices and follow your dreams."