Oh dear: Meter Maids heat up Tech.Ed


Australia’s technology sector is no stranger to booth babe controversy. We’ve had Leisuresuit Larry Bloch’s naughty nurses at CeBIT, we’ve had Pamela Anderson covered in cream in salacious advertisements put together by Crazy Domains, and that’s only been within the past year or so.

But we really didn’t expect this kind of behaviour from Microsoft, one of the more … buttoned down of companies.

However, it appears that things at the company’s giant Tech.Ed confab on the Gold Coast got a little wild last night when some young ladies dressed in the region’s traditional historical garb showed up … that’s right: The Gold Coast’s Meter Maids were in town.

The reaction from the predominantly male attendee base was immediately positive:

But some immediately started questioning what sort of image the Meter Maids were creating:

And some immediately pointed out that Microsoft might have double standards. “It does make me ask: Hello Microsoft — I still don’t understand how this fits with your session encouraging women in IT tomorrow? WTF?” asked Kate Carruthers, a senior social business consultant at Headshift Australia and well-known members of the Twitterati.

But out of the whole debacle, what most amused Oh Dear was the creation of a new Twitter account to entertain the Tech.Ed masses:

Oh dear.

Image credits: @themolk, Delimiter

Delimiter’s Jenna Pitcher is attending Tech.Ed this week as a guest of Microsoft, with flights, accommodation and meals paid for.


  1. Oh please… no-one is FORCING these women to be “booth babes” or meter maid – they do it because they WANT to and are paid (probably quite well) for it.

    Personally, I’m sorry I couldn’t attend to have my pic taken with them… They are a Qld institution.

    Have you ever noticed that, with the exception of @themolk, all those that complain about them are just jealous that they don’t look that good ??

    • I kinda think there are two arguments about this … on the one hand — yes, you are right, the Meter Maids do get paid to do it and (if I remember correctly from a Sunrise report on this), they do enjoy it and do it freely out of choice, they’re not slave labor and so on. Plus, there is an argument to be made that we don’t want Australia to become a really conservative society where everything is covered up etc.

      However there is also the argument that this is a male-dominated conference, and the presence of the Meter Maids is going to do absolutely nothing for the cause of encouraging women into the field … there is already a strong macho culture in IT, and this sort of thing just makes it worse.

      Personally I am about 60/40 in terms of the first argument versus the second one. I think what this shows is that there is a line — and the line has to be carefully watched. Booth babes at a tech conference? You gotta expect that. If they started dancing around on poles etc and being overtly sexual and so on — that is where the line would be crossed.

      And I also think the line has a lot to do with how many women are at the conference. If it’s a 100% male conference, you gotta be a lot more careful with how people behave. If there are more women, men will behave a bit more carefully and so on and conform more to societal norms.

  2. Yes, I see your point. More women ARE coming into IT, true – but that doesn’t mean that IT has to stop being “fun” for us…

    I know many IT women that enjoy the Meter Maids (and are straight !!) as much as men do. Conferences of this type have historically been times for geeks to let down their hair and have a bit of relatively innocent fun, and quite a lot of drinking from what I remember.

    As for men behaving badly (sound like a TV show ??), well the women that attend do so knowing that these things are likely to be there. If they are that offended by them, and I respect their right to be so, then maybe they shouldn’t attend if there’s an “exhibition” involved ?

    I stand by my previous comment that the only women who (in general) complain about these types of “booth babes” are the ones that are not possessed of the appropriate physical attributes to be one themselves.

    Look at Formula 1 and V8 races – the Grid Girls have been an integral and very attractive part of these events world wide for years and years – I have never noticed women who attend these races complaining or refusing to attend because of it..

  3. Kate’s point is this just takes the IT industry back decades in its efforts to attract women and illustrates the sector’s double standards when that conference is holding a “women in IT” event the following day.

    There’s bigger issues here though, as Kate said when commenting on the Netregistry Saucy Nurses, “This is a business environment… would you send them (the nurses) into your client’s office?”

    If the IT industry wants to shed its image of being populated with sweaty male geeks obsessed with technobling while being out of touch with businesses objectives and community values then growing up and ditching the bikini babes might be a good first step.

  4. I must admit not having followed the “Naughty Nurses” saga, but having read about it on this esteemed site I offer the comment;

    “SO WHAT”

    No, I wouldn’t send them to a client’s office – that’s not what they are there for. They are there to provide a (admittedly possibly controversial) talking point and hand out brochures and/or other freebies.

    Crazy Domains did the same thing at the recent CES and actually had people having their photos taken with the rather attractive and bikini-clad young lady that starred with Pamela Anderson in their TV advertisements. I recall no such outrage at that event, from attendees or the media.

    Would I use a company that advertises or promotes itself thusly ? Hell yes, if their service and/or pricing is attractive and it does what I want.

    I would rather attend an event that has a few “booth babes” (some modesty is, of course, necessary) and makes the drudgery of wandering around for a few hours enjoyable (for BOTH sexes), that something sterile and clinical.

  5. It’s all just in the name of fun. IT is a very male industry, and what about the way some of those male models are dressed at fashion shows / perfume/ make-up / new retail store launches? Objectification anyone?

    At least the MeterMaid’s are more exciting than the picture of the cookies at the Tech Ed stand.

  6. pffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffft

  7. I’ve mixed feelings over this. On one hand, Australia is not as puritan as the US, while on the other hand we don’t wish to discourage women from the I.T. industry.

    All this posturing belies some facts though:

    1. Australian women enjoy a high degree of respect. When one thinks of people like Elle, Kylie, these people have more business savvy, and are pretty smart cookies in their own right.
    2. Sun and surf is not perceived as being bimbo-esque. It’s regarded as a healthy cheerful sporty outdoor lifestyle.
    3. The male dominated industries in Australia like mining and I.T. actually treat women very well. I remember young female graduates who say the miners treat them like their own daughters.

    If there are any **perceptions** that ought to change it is:

    1. The idea that males in I.T. are geeks and have an unhealthy/dysfunctional attitude towards women
    2. That pretty women are somehow not brainy enough

    What I really want to know is whether most of the women in I.T. feel this is a real issue, or whether it’s making something out of nothing?

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