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Netregistry nurses make me sick

CeBIT is a 3-day conference which focuses on business technology and IT solutions, and is held every year in Australia. Companies exhibit at CeBIT, hoping to build brand awareness and promote their service offerings. This year, Australian domain name registration and web hosting company Netregistry tried a slightly different marketing tactic – and it’s one that’s making me sick.

Using a ‘medical’ theme to promote their web site health check service, Netregistry dressed female staff in quasi-nurse uniforms, and had them ask CeBIT attendees about the health of their websites. According to this article by ZDNet, Netregistry CEO Larry Bloch (@larrybloch on Twitter) has stated that

“There would have been female doctors if any of our sales people were female — but they’re not”

This is appalling on three levels;

Representation of women in ICT: Instead of having female consultants and sales staff with (presumably) the technical and interpersonal skills to analyse the health of a client’s website, instead models (employed for their looks, not for their intellectual capital) are used engage the (predominantly male) attendees of CeBIT.

Representation of the nursing profession: The nursing profession has worked long and hard to build an image of nurses built on trust, integrity and professional deportment. Placing women in nurses’ uniforms to sell website ‘health checks’ detracts not only from the image of women, but also from the image of nurses and the nursing profession.

Lack of female representation in sales roles: The question everyone is forgetting to ask is why there are no female sales staff at Netregistry? Oh woops, my bad – as a female why would I want to work for an organisation that so obviously doesn’t see women as professional and intelligent, but as eye candy to sell a service. Recruit me now.

No wonder I moved away from Netregistry for my web hosting some time ago. They were appalling then and things it seems haven’t changed.

If you’re as angry as I am about this, send @larrybloch or @Netregistry a Tweet.

Disclaimer: I wasn’t at CeBIT, I didn’t see the ‘nurses’ in question. But I didn’t have to…


  1. Jonathan Crossfield
    Jonathan Crossfield Wed May 13, 2009

    If I may respond as the marketing manager at Netregistry. Currently at Netregistry we don’t have any women on the small sales team. It is wrong to imply from this that we somehow have a sexist hiring policy. We have employed some excellent women in our sales team, including one of our best and most popular sales consultants (and resident pool champ) who only left earlier this year. We employ many women in other roles throughout the office in areas of technical expertise and even this expo stand was designed – and the nurses planned and costumes created – by a woman in my marketing department who took great pains to ensure the nurses did not appear overly sexualised.

    Thanks 😉

  2. Moses
    Moses Wed May 13, 2009

    >an image of nurses built on trust, integrity and professional deportment.

    Sure many of our nurses are foreign nationals however I wouldn’t be so eager to deport them.

    >No wonder I moved away from Netregistry for my web hosting some time ago. They were appalling then and things it seems haven’t changed.

    Funny, I’m moving to NetRegistry now, partly cause bottle keep messing me around, and partly cause they appear to have “a sense of humour”

    >Disclaimer: I wasn’t at CeBIT, I didn’t see the ‘nurses’ in question. But I didn’t have to…

    Oh, so you’re basing this on pent up outrage then. I didn’t see the nurses either, but wish I had.

  3. KathyReid
    KathyReid Wed May 13, 2009

    Hi Jonathan, thanks for helping to clarify the issue.

    Although Netregistry might employ women in many other roles, you haven’t specified what role the women who portrayed the nurses play in your organisation. Are they Netregistry staff? Or are they hired for their looks to market Netregistry’s services?

    The fact that the nurses’ uniforms were designed by a woman is no defence – I find it even more appalling that a woman would portray her own gender in this manner.

    Nurses haven’t worn the archetypal pinafore for decades – and anyone would be hard pressed to find a nurse’s uniform such as the ones on show at CeBIT.

    If ‘health check’ was the focus of the marketing campaign, why for instance weren’t there women dressed as doctors with stethoscopes?

    Is Netregistry an Employer of Choice for Women? I couldn’t find you on the list at;

    The cynical side of me doesn’t help but wonder in a time of economic belt tightening whether Netregistry has decided to go down the ‘any publicity is good publicity’ track…

    I only hope that in future your company decides to promote women (and nurses!) in a more professional manner.

  4. KathyReid
    KathyReid Thu May 14, 2009

    Hi Moses,

    > Sure many of our nurses are foreign nationals however I wouldn’t be so eager to deport them.
    I don’t understand your point – would you care to explain it to me? I’m not sure what having foreign national nurses has to do with portraying women in a certain fashion in order to sell services.

    I sincerely hope you enjoy your relationship with Netregistry – personally I prefer dealing with professional organisations.

    >>Disclaimer: I wasn’t at CeBIT, I didn’t see the ‘nurses’ in question. But I didn’t have to…

    >Oh, so you’re basing this on pent up outrage then. I didn’t see the nurses either, but wish I had.

    I’m not outraged. I’m disappointed. Disappointed that in 2009 a company that purports to be professional needs to use images of women dressed up as nurses to sell professional services. If the services were professional and valuable, I hardly think they would be promoted in this way.

  5. Adam
    Adam Thu May 14, 2009

    That is truly ridiculous, Miss Reid! Of course nurses outfits aren’t at all like the ones the girls were wearing (but you colour them sexier in your imagination than they were in real life – they had leggings and arm stockings, they were full body covered), the stand is a PARODY – hello – a comedy, piss-taking medical cliches and marketing culture. This all says more about you than it does Netregistry. The nurses were one aspect of a pretty in-depth concept. A fake hospital with nurses?! Who would have thought?!

    And at the end of the day, you weren’t even there!

  6. Josh
    Josh Fri May 15, 2009

    It’s never ending marketing from Netregistry. I get consistent phone calls from Netregistry’s “partners” wanting to sell me rubbish. I called Netregistry, showed them their own terms of service and told them I wanted off their lists. They told me it couldn’t be done, and I should just deal with the calls.

    Netregistry’s marketing is shady all around. Nothing new here.

    At least we’re not seeing what we saw last year – girls in a Jacuzzi selling mobile phones.

  7. Larry Bloch
    Larry Bloch Sun May 17, 2009

    Clearly sex is a component of Netregistry’s marketing for CeBIT, we’re not denying that. And yes, the old dude with the cigar is cheesy. A lot of marketing is. As to the campaign being sexist or degrading to women…well, that’s interesting. I would describe the level of “sexism” or sexual stereotyping of nurses used by our team as an uncontroversial and innate aspect of humanity – the inability to completely ignore gender. If that is sexism, I think it’s healthy and should stay. There needs to be tension between the sexes or we’ll die out as a species.

    I was intrigued by the many women whose message was “toughen up girls”. To me it says that for many women, feminism has achieved its goals – allowing women to have a playing field that is level enough for them to feel they are competing on an even footing and can therefore rely purely on their own merits without wondering if their outcomes are depressed by the “male” system. I know that’s not the case universally, and that there have always been women who rejected feminism. Nonetheless, one aspect of feminism that I believe caused its message to be diluted and resisted was the persistent presentation of what one poster described as the “victim mentality”: if you believe your circumstance is undermined by forces beyond your control, it is difficult to take responsibility for those aspects of your life that are not.

    Where I am particularly encouraged by our stand is in peoples emotional reaction to the nurses. When attractive girls are clearly there purely for their sex appeal, as a man, you react to them in that way. You go over to take what they offer, but you do not engage with their offering. The response to our nurses was very different, with a high degree of engagement with the content itself. That is undeniable – you could see the evidence of that on our stand all through CeBIT. I’m sure that this is because of the context we placed them in. We connected their outfit with the message we wanted to convey, and that made it easy for visitors to make the transfer from being approached by a pretty girl to discussing products and services with a sales person.

    Now I don’t deny that they were deliberately attractive girls in nurses outfits. How acceptable that is regardless of our objectives and contextualizing is ultimately in the eye of the beholder. Marketing is after all about getting attention. I am personally very comfortable with the balance we struck, and I think it fair to say that for our audience (male and female) the balance was not overly offensive.

    Larry Bloch

  8. Barbara Wilson
    Barbara Wilson Mon June 22, 2009

    Just as disappointing as the Women in IT calendar published several years ago, with women draped seductively over PCs, servers and with cables in their hands. Also cooked up by women, and when confronted with concern for the message, these women also spruiked the toughen up love comment. Disarmement by humiliation.

    As a woman in IT I would also challenge Larry’s statements about the level playing field. The participation of women and girls in IT is indicative how level this playing field is. It ain’t.

    Professional IT services are sold by companies like HP, EDS, IBM et al without having to dress up women. Wether they be dressed up as nurses, doctors, propeller heads or monkeys is of no significant importance.

    Larry is right in the respect that the acceptability is in the eye of the beholder. As a female in IT in a senior executive role, that may drive the decision making wrt to vendor selection in a certain direction.

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