'Tone-deaf' ad is costing Techweek Chicago supporters and sponsors

By Aileen Graef  |  June 5, 2014 at 4:24 PM
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CHICAGO, June 5 (UPI) -- Techweek Chicago saw sponsors and supporters drop after they produced an ad that many are calling misogynistic and endemic of the tech business.

The ad promotes a black tie charity event and features women in form-fitting tuxedo costumes posing suggestively. The ad has been widely criticized by people on Twitter.

Tech 100 honorees, including Google engineering manager Brian Fitzpatrick and former Obama for America CTO Harper Reed, told Techweek to remove their names from the list. Crain's Chicago Business, Max Temkin, co-creator of the best-selling game Cards Against Humanity, and Lightspan Digital have either pulled their sponsorship or refused to offer sponsorship in response to the ads.

"How amazingly tone-deaf it is, considering how much discussion there's been, especially in the last six months, around diversity in the tech scene, around misogyny in the tech scene," Dan Sinker, director of the Knight-Mozilla OpenNews Project, told the Huffington Post.

At the end of May, Google released its data on diversity, showing women only make up 30 percent of the company's staff.

Techweek Chicago issued an apology Wednesday saying, "The last thing we want to do is alienate anyone in the community and we sincerely apologize if this event or imagery is offensive to you."

Attendees of the conference were not impressed.

"In the South, they call it a 'big city apology," said Temkin. "'Sorry if you were offended' puts the onus of the apology on the people who were hurt by it."

Most of the outrage has come from men, which according to Sinkler is due to the hostility women may face if the speak out against the ad.

"At least a certain subset of the tech community [in Chicago] is actively working to get away from [sexism] and have events that are far more welcoming to not just white dudes," said Sinker.

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