A Controversial New Ad Shows Female Tech Founders And CEOs Coding In Their Underwear

With its brand-new Ada Collection — named after Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer — underwear company Dear Kate is taking a rather non-traditional approach to advertising.

The lookbook for the lingerie line shows six prominent women in tech posing with computers and code and wearing nothing but their underwear.

The photos are meant to be empowering, complete with quotes from the women about their roles in the tech industry.

Dear Kate founder and CEO Julie Sygiel said she intentionally placed the models in the workplace. The shoot took place in Refinery29’s New York City headquarters.

“I think a lot of traditional lingerie photo shoots depict women as simply standing there looking sexy. They’re not always in a position of power and control,” Sygiel said to TIME. “In our photo shoots it’s important to portray women who are active and ambitious. They’re not just standing around waiting for things to happen.”

But some people have found the campaign offensive, with feminists arguing that the photos place emphasis on looks in an industry that is already fraught with sexual abuse and misogyny.

“Posing in your underwear undermines the message that you aim to be taken seriously as a technologist,” Elissa Shevinsky, CEO of Glimpse Labs, said to TIME.

On the other hand, Skillcrush cofounder and CEO Adda Birnir said she didn’t think twice when Dear Kate asked her to participate in the photo shoot.

“I think its an amazing company that has a truly integrated, feminist point of view and I wanted to help support them in everything they do,” Birnir said to Business Insider.

She says the controversy is interesting and surprising, adding that it creates a conversation that is important to have.

“I think the thing is that all women have bodies and wear underwear and have to deal with all the mundane as well as cultural/political things that come with walking around in a female body,” she said. “We aren’t either women who pose in underwear or women who code or women who are attractive or women who are unattractive or women who are sexual or women who are CEOs. We are all the things at once, and it’s confusing and messy and complicated and often annoyingly at issue, but not dealing with all those different facets isn’t a viable solution.”

Rebecca Garcia, founder of Geek Girl Web, didn’t expect the shoot to be so controversial.

“I think highlighting women and their careers, their background stories like Dear Kate has done is important for women to see others like themselves that they can relate to,” she said to Business Insider. ” It’s body positive and inspiring and I’m excited to be a part of the lookbook.”

She says that discrimination is a very common occurrence in her industry.

“I’m friends and acquaintances with several women who have been affected by sexism in tech,” she said. “I have faced discrimination, ageism, not being taken seriously as a programmer, and I think this shoot helps to normalize the idea that women can be comfortable in their own skin and be in technology.”

Birnir sees the campaign as just one step in a process to achieve gender equality in tech.

“I don’t think any one thing can fix anything.We need more women in C-level positions. More women starting companies. More women making millions. More women in office. More empowered images of women wearing lingerie,” she added. “I just think that the answer isn’t to deny that as women we have female bodies that are beautiful and to be celebrated in addition to our brains.”

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