Women Tech Execs: It's About Power, Not Boobs

I'm late to this conversation, but I've just finished reading Poynter columnist Mallary Jean Tenore's timely front page column, describing media coverage of women leaders in the tech sector. Fast Company magazine is asking readers to nominate candidates for an upcoming issue. Mallary Jean talked to the magazine's editor, Robert Safian:

"The reality is, there aren't nearly as many women in the tech world as there are men. But that shouldn't be an excuse not to feature them. ... Instead, it should give the media even more of an incentive to highlight women and their accomplishments."

What a nice idea. In fact, Fast Company did it in 2008 but got an unexpected response from commenters who looked at the women's photos:

"Do her... Wouldn't do her... Wouldn't do her... Do her..."

"Insert female porn star name here"

"I'd hit each one of them."

Reporter Saabira Chaudhauri responded sharply to the reaction. But Poynter's Tenore goes further, comparing Fast Company's move with Wired magazine's November cover, a revealing shot of a woman's nearly naked breasts. Wired's editor, Chris Anderson, defended the decision on a critic's blog (slide down to read his full remarks):

"This is an issue we wrestle with all the time, and it reflects a combination of things, ranging from not enough high-profile women in the tech industry who are recognizable to sell a cover (every month we cover test a list of names to see which ones people know well enough to want to read about them), to your sense that if we go outside the tech industry for women that this somehow doesn’t count."

Did you know the Wired story is about scientists whose studies of breast augmentation could assist stem cell researchers? Did you know it was reported by Sharon Begley, an award-winning science journalist who contributes to Newsweek?

Is the image okay if women say it's okay?

Women staffers at Wired blogged a response to the controversy; they posed for pictures and held the cover in front of their chests, saying the criticism "hurt our feelings":

"Our intent was to stand behind (literally) the magazine cover by reclaiming the anonymous image as our own, in celebration of the idea that she is all women and we are all her. The breasts on Wired are emblems of an era when post-masectomy reconstruction won’t mean the choice between an artificial implant and scar tissue. So, read the article, and learn about the amazing, liberating future for breast cancer survivors."

Does this mean pink ribbons aren't enough anymore?

BTW: Poynter today covers Esquire magazine's (now resolved) distribution headache with Apple's review process. Esquire ran into trouble getting the company's approval for the magazine's iPad app over its latest issue: "Minka Kelly Is The Sexiest Woman Alive."

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