The organisers of a major UK construction trade show have apologised after scantily-clad female performers were employed by a show sponsor to enliven its stand, sparking complaints.
The sponsor Easy-Trim, a manufacturer of roofing ventilation and dry-fix products, also issued an apology "for any upset caused" by its use of stilt-walkers and dancers dressed in revealing Las Vegas show girl outfits at UK Construction Week, held 10-12 October in Birmingham.
On seeing the women at the show, the director of the London Festival of Architecture, Tamsie Thomson, complained, tweeting: "What happened to bringing equality to the sector?"
Sexualising women is not supportive of equality in construction– Angela Dapper, Denton Corker Marshall
A Construction Week spokesperson defended the event, saying it was for a Las Vegas-themed exhibit.
That caused the architect Angela Dapper, partner at international architecture practice Denton Corker Marshall, to fire back. "Not an appropriate choice of entertainment," she tweeted. "Sexualising women is not supportive of equality in construction."
The issue was taken up by interiors and design website Dezeen last week – a week in which concern over sexual abuse and harassment sparked by revelations about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein had engulfed British politics, starting with the suspension by the Labour Party of its MP Jared O’Mara on 25 October.
First to apologise was publisher and events company Media 10, organiser of UK Construction Week (UKCW), who issued a statement to Dezeen, which it then published online on 26 October.
"Whilst none of us want to return to the days where promotional models were used as marketing method to attract visitors to exhibition stands," the statement said, "the use in this instance was described to us as part of the overall theme along with Elvis and other themed dressed professionals such as Croupiers etc."
The company said it was aware of Easy-Trim’s theme, including the use of female performers, but said: "For those offended by the use of promotional models at exhibitions we would like to stress that we at UKCW do not condone the practice."
It said it would put in place a "rigorous monitoring system" for the future and prohibit "inappropriately dressed" staff, adding "we apologise if anyone was offended by the content on this particular stand".
For its part Easy-Trim published a statement the following day on 27 October by Rachel Gibson, its marketing director, who said "for any element of our stand at this event to upset just one person causes myself and all the team, both female and male considerable regret and upset and for this we apologise."
Easy-Trim was the headline sponsor of the Show Build component of the exhibition. Gibson explained that the two professional stilt walkers and two dancers, each dressed in show girl outfits, supported its stand’s Las Vegas theme, called "Why Gamble?", which promoted British manufacturing in the context of the risks of Brexit and skills shortages.
"Our stand design, theme, and elements were all based on supporting this statement in a fun and diverse way," Gibson said, adding that the stand also contained a full sized roulette wheel, Black Jack table, and an oversized One Arm Bandit.
"I again want to apologise for any upset caused," she concluded, "and stress that each element of the stand was as important as the other and made up our vision of the stand theme."
Both Media 10 and Easy-Trim said they were committed to promoting diversity and equal opportunity in the construction industry, with Media 10 pointing out that it had woven the theme into show promotion, content and debates throughout the show’s three-year history.
Image: Performers dressed in Las Vegas show girl outfits appearing at UK Construction Week, 10-12 October 2017, in Birmingham UK (From a photograph tweeted by the director of the London Festival of Architecture, Tamsie Thomson)