Hey BIO, it’s bad enough that you produced the 2018 conference with 25 manels but now word has spread* that one of the parties NOT associated with your annual conference featured topless dancers with sponsor logos painted on their bodies. (Psst, your name is actually part of the event — Party At BIO Not Associated with BIO, or PABNAB.)
Hey PABNAB organizers, I understand you are trying to constantly “outdo last time” and you felt the need to up the ante. I run events.  I sometimes run events that are associated with a bigger event.  Last year’s Innovation Women Pop-up was a part of Boston’s Hubweek. I get it. I was super psyched to have a sitting female FCC Commissioner do a fireside chat at my event. Helpful hint from another event organizer: topless dancers – not the right approach.

But if there was strong direction or messaging from the BIO organization on the importance and respect for half the population, this idea might have never come up or been quashed in committee. BIO, parties like this are just as much a part of your conference as the official events.  These “exclusive” parties are seen as adding to the mystique and buzz around a conference. Many conference organizers encourage them or look the other way.

According to a story in Bloomberg, a spokesMAN for Selexis, one of the sponsors of the event and one of the companies that had their logo painted on a dancer, said the company “didn’t approve the painting of its name on the dancer” and declined further comment. The CEO from another one of the sponsors said the firm “won’t sponsor the PABNAB event again next year if the actions are repeated. “You got caught and don’t do it again,” is the message. BIO and Mass Bio also issued statements denouncing the event.

BIO, instead of too-little-too-late apologies, change what you are doing. Lead instead of follow.  Associate yourself with organizations that support diverse and inclusive events, not organizations that will tear you down.  Even if the industry population is still tilted toward the all male and all pale, show the world what could be.  Show us what it would be like if the industry were gender-balanced, inclusive and diverse. In the words of our friends from Gender Avenger, “Do better”.
*”Word has spread” is code for front page of the Boston Globe, covered by Bloomberg and numerous other publications.

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