One of the UK’s largest industry exhibitions is issuing a new code of conduct over the use of “promo girls”.
Last year, Construction Week, held at Birmingham’s NEC, faced criticism over the use of skimpily clad women to staff an exhibitor’s stall.
It featured Las Vegas-style showgirls selling roofing products.
Criticism of sexism at business and sports events has grown following the Financial Times’ report into the President’s Club ball last month.
Since then, promoters of darts championships and Formula One have said they will no longer use lightly dressed young women to adorn their events.
Construction Week attracts more than 600 exhibitors and attracts more than 35,000 people every October.
The industry in recent years has run campaigns highlighting diversity in the industry and employed strategies to attract women into construction professions in order to plug skills gaps.
The sight of the show girls at the October 2017 event prompted one visitor to the show to ask: “How many hot pants do you need?”
Now the show is introducing guidelines on diversity, equality and inclusion and a code of conduct for exhibitors, including on the design and staffing of stands, as well as the clothing worn.
It also warns that if an exhibitor’s stand theme is deemed inappropriate or doesn’t comply with its equality, diversity and inclusion policy, they may not be permitted to open their stand at the event.
The new guide urges exhibitors to “Consider the mix of staff you have on the stand (gender, age, ethnicity etc). Do they represent the diversity of your company, and if not, be prepared to explain why not?”
Nathan Garnett, event director of UK Construction Week, told the BBC the Las Vegas-themed stand was a one-off: “We had standard guidelines. We understand it was a mistake, but we’ve turned it in to a positive.
“The company in question has apologised for what’s happened. The theme of the stand was ‘Why gamble?’ but it went too far.”
A growing number of events and how they treat women are attracting closer scrutiny.
The annual show for the international property industry, Mipim, which is held in Cannes each year, is facing accusations of being a sexist and male-dominated event.
Several women I have spoken to have described the event as “uncomfortable” and “laddish”, with a tradition of heavy drinking at parties on yachts and at hotels.
Local sex workers allegedly used the conference’s Twitter hashtag to attract customers at last year’s event, but a spokesman for Mipim strongly denied accusations that prostitutes had actually attended last year’s conference.
He said: “Under no circumstances does Mipim register prostitutes” at the event.