As the unofficial capital of the midwest, Chicago considered by many to be a kindler, gentler version of its coastal counterparts, New York and Los Angeles. This overall friendly attitude and fondness for work-life balance attitude is often cited when tech industry observers ask why an ecosystem is not more highly regarded by coastal investors and entrepreneurs, despite producing successes such as Orbitz, Groupon, GrubHub, and Braintree.
Well it seems someone forgot to tell the organizers of Tech Week Chicago about the city’s friendly reputation. The conference finds itself in some hot water thanks to a sexually suggestive flyer promoting a pair of apparent charity events dubbed the “1st Annual Black Tie Rave Chicago” and “Spring Awakening After Party.”
The kickoff party is sponsored by Microsoft and promises to include the “biggest names in Chicago tech.” The organizers may have trouble delivering on that last promise, however, as a number of prominent members of the local tech ecosystem have begun dissociating themselves with Chicago Tech Week. The list of protesters, began with MakeItFor.us founder Moshe Tamssot
— Moshe Tamssot (@Tamssot) June 3, 2014
Right on cue, Tamssot was joined by Lightbank partner Paul Lee;
Former Obama for America CTO Harper Reed;
Googler Brian Fitzpatrick;
Author Dan Sinker;
And, designer Max Temkin
— Max Temkin (@MaxTemkin) June 4, 2014
Apparently this is a pattern for Tech Week Chicago, which last year promoted it conference with a similarly offensive image of bikini-clad women and in 2011 hosted a polarizing anti-feminist rant by serial founder Penelope Trunk. It seems the organization hasn’t learned its lesson.
There’s never a good time for tacky marketing, but this incident comes at time when gender equality is under extreme scrutiny in media and technology circles. Hopefully Tech Week Chicago and its sponsor Microsoft will take this opportunity to rethink its use of women as marketing objects. Surely this industry could use all the positive leadership it can muster.