'Hostess' at trade exhibition

(27 Posts)
NoraLuca Wed 23-Oct-13 08:19:50

The company I work for are going to participate at a trade exhibition / conference shortly. They will have a stand with brochures, etc. and the sales team will meet and greet clients / potential clients. The usual. This year they have decided to hire a hostess to 'help out' on the stand. She won't really know anything about the company or what we do. Apparently, Her tasks will be to smile, say hello, serve drinks, etc. And look pretty, though nobody will openly say that. Though the sales team (all men) are constantly joking about the 'extra services' that they're going to ask for.

The whole thing annoys me, but I can't quite explain why. Maybe because it seems to summarise how they see women. Hostess will be the only women there, except maybe me. Would this situation bug anyone else?

For a bit of background, the company is about 90% men, in a male dominated industry. We are in an EU country. I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder because I don't feel that they take me seriously at work, and am trying to decide what to do career Wise.

Deliaskis Wed 23-Oct-13 09:26:47

Hmmm....first post on F/WR board (I think), but to me, the level of acceptability of this would be mostly dictated to by your last paragraph, and the element of 'looking pretty' that is required (and what the person is expected to wear). On the face of it, employing a person to meet/greet/make coffee etc. is fine, but there is no reason why this always has to be a woman. At the extreme end of the scale, this sounds like it is going to be something like a motorshow and they want to hire a 'dolly bird' (ugh) to lure unsuspecting males at the mercy of their physical urges to your stand to buy stuff.

TBH, in my industry, we have always used hostesses, they distribute leaflets/brochures, make coffee, collect enquiry cards etc. However, they are always dressed in black trouser suits and are actually no longer called hostesses as about 25% of them are male (they are locally hired to each event so we don't ever know who we are going to get). I think they're called 'event support team' or something.

I think I would be uncomfortable with what you are describing too. It's hardly ever about the job/person on paper, it's about what is really being expected/assumed about them, and the respect with which they will be treated.

D

slug Wed 23-Oct-13 12:29:54

They are known as 'Booth Babes' in IT and contribute to the idea that men work and women's primary function it to look pretty for the men. It makes it hugely difficult for women in the industry as their presence at these events is not taken seriously. The assumption is you are there for decoration only.

BuffytheAppleBobber Wed 23-Oct-13 12:32:19

Are they specifying that the "hostess" must be female? I believe that this is illegal, no?

jamaisjedors Wed 23-Oct-13 12:38:41

I am in France and a lot of my students do this as a job on the side. I always found the term "hostess" a bit hmmm... when translating it for them for their CV - is there a more neutral term?

kim147 Wed 23-Oct-13 12:39:32

Remember that scene in the Apprentice when one of the men requested one of the women to come to their stand to "attract the men".

scallopsrgreat Wed 23-Oct-13 16:35:17

I went to an IT event last week and there were some women dressed as bees. Something to do with wireless networks, of course confused. Needless to say there were no men dressed as bees.

I went with another woman and we had been told to expect to be accosted at a lot of the booths for details. Nah. Didn't happen. We actually had to stand in people's faces to get attention and be talked to.

We were outnumbered by men by about 10 to 1.

CMOTDibbler Wed 23-Oct-13 16:47:05

I work in a very male dominated industry, and work on our booth at conference, but as a technical expert. At larger events we have booth staff whose role is to greet customers, give out literature, make appointments for demonstrations, find other staff (can be up to 300 staff on our booth), and though they are mostly female there are some men. Absolutely no suggestion that they are there to attract anyone, and in our business it is not acceptable to have anyone like that.

We attract many people by distribution of good coffee and toblerone though, so that element is very effective. I generally refuse to make coffee unless I'm going to sit down to chat with a customer who I know - the staff make this whole process much easier

lisac99 Wed 23-Oct-13 17:47:51

Scallops: IP Expo by any chance? I was there and thought the company 'Aerohive' was utterly disgusting. There were also women dressed as bunnies which made me really angry.

I work in IT Security and genuinely thought that IP Expo was really good for networking and learning what's new on the market... but was shocked at how many women were in short skirts, high heels, fish nets - when the men were in suits or just company branded polo shirts.

Same with Info Sec - Women dressed in scantily clad silver lycra. It's absolutely pathetic, however it begs the question: If it's still happening in 2013, I am assuming it actually must work? sad

TheDoctrineOfSpike Wed 23-Oct-13 19:16:47

Look puzzled and say, "Why would you ask for extra services from an event support professional?"

ITCouldBeWorse Wed 23-Oct-13 19:17:29

Very useful to have a nominated person to support hospitality, beyond pathetic to order a pretty hostess.

But I am from an industry where it was the norm for a pair of models in thongs to shower on the hour to demonstrate plumbing equipment.

Most industries are beginning to realise this is not ok, and cynically that handsome male hospitality staff can appeal to female buyers.

NoraLuca Thu 24-Oct-13 15:39:29

Deliaskis yes, first post on F/WR board. Though I have been lurking for a while. I agree with your point about the way the person is treated - the way they are talking about this woman, who they haven't met or spoken to, is def not respectful.

It's reassuring to hear that using event support people (much prefer that term to hostess!) is quite usual. I don't usually go to trade fairs, and don't really know what the norm is. I'm not sure about dress code, etc. for this hostess, maybe she will be wearing a black trouser suit. Maybe. I think it's the general atmosphere at work that is bugging me, not just this one issue.

jamaisjedors I am in France too, I've not heard another term for it apart from 'hotesse.' Maybe hotesse d'accueil sounds better? Agent d'accueil? But not sure if that's quite the same thing.

emcwill74 Thu 24-Oct-13 15:47:42

Yes this situation would bug me OP.

It's certainly valid to have a person whose job it is to offer drinks and make clients welcome. Same as if you have a business dinner, you have waiters to bring the food and drink and FOH staff to show the guests to the table, etc.

It's worrying and - as someone upthread observes - possibly illegal to make an official stance of choosing a 'pretty' woman to do this job.

scallopsrmissingAnyFucker Thu 24-Oct-13 16:51:04

Hi lisac99 - yes it was. I felt quite conspicuous, not being in a male suit -the uniform du jour. It immediately felt very 'othering' (I wasn't in heels or anything flashy or particularly 'feminine' either).

I don't think whether it works or not is the point. It is normal to sell products using sex. It is only appealing to men (generally white heterosexual men at that). It is a form of shutting out women. And it is using women as the sex class. I'd like to shift the overton window so that it seems ludicrous to do that.

ricardo77 Thu 24-Oct-13 17:12:50

All part of free trade and capitalism unfortunately - the answer is to vote Socialist, but do any of you do that?

emcwill74 Thu 24-Oct-13 17:18:28

Yes ricardo. Although I don't think it makes a blind bit of difference since I see this as a problem to do with the way a patriarchal society values women for their appearance and commodifies that in a horribly patronising way.

BuffytheAnyAppleFucker Thu 24-Oct-13 17:21:17

Ah, the classic 'it makes the most money so whatchagonnado' argument.

LaFataMalvagia Thu 24-Oct-13 17:42:27

I'm not sure the term 'hostess' is always necessarily dodgy. Hostesses in America are the people that check your reservations and show you to your table at restaurants (based on watching lots of American sitcoms). I'm guessing the men are called hosts??

I do think something like 'hospitality assistant' or 'event support assistant' or even 'booth assistant' would be a lot better though.

And they should not be scantily clad! Company branded T-shirts or suits surely.

ricardo77 Thu 24-Oct-13 17:43:52

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

SabrinaMulFUCKERJjones Thu 24-Oct-13 17:53:32

"dogma" hmm

WhentheRed Thu 24-Oct-13 17:54:49

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Grennie Thu 24-Oct-13 18:01:10

Ignore Ricardo.

Yes this would annoy me enormously. Someone to serve drinks is fine. But that is not just what they are talking about. And the comments about extras is disgusting.

TeiTetua Thu 24-Oct-13 18:11:58

If I went to a trade show and some company had booth babes on display, I'd wonder if the dazzling sight of them bending forward to hand out literature was designed to make the customer forget how mediocre the product (the stuff that the company sells) actually is.

Meanwhile, if their competitor is located in the next aisle over and they have women and men dressed neatly and seeming to treat each other like colleagues with a job to do, then that's the company I'd take seriously. And if they'd hired hospitality workers from some local agency, that's fine too, as long as they have a legitimate role. But not strippers!

Grennie Thu 24-Oct-13 18:13:44

Yes I am in a senior position at work and I do not buy from any company that uses dodgy advertising.

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