CeBIT nurses cause Twitter uproar

CeBIT nurses cause Twitter uproar

Summary: Domain name specialist NetRegistry has come under fire for using women dressed as nurses to promote its services at Australia's largest trade fair CeBIT this week.


Domain name specialist NetRegistry has come under fire for using women dressed as nurses to promote its services at Australia's largest trade fair CeBIT this week.

One of the controversial nurses
(Credit: Liam Tung/

Throughout today a number of members of Australia's ICT and marketing communities used the Twitter social networking platform to flag their belief the use of what many described as NetRegistry "booth babes" was demeaning to women, comments that came after discussion had initially appeared to take a lighthearted view of the marketing technique.

Social media expert Stephen Collins wrote: "Association of sexist imagery with women in the ICT industry is ipso facto degrading. Perception = reality" and was answered soon after by US-based Aussie Jo White who said: "It's more than that too. It suggests the company doesn't have a product/service that is worth looking at on its own. Cheap tactic".

"The idea of 'booth babes', no matter how they are dressed, has had its day. Professional people, professional image," added Collins. Said Perth-based web designer Taa Brennan: "I put it to you that more women are starting up online businesses than men. This is a trend. You don't want them offside."

Bloch also used his own Twitter account to play down the sexism allegations.

Bloch said the nurses' uniforms had only come into play because of NetRegistry's medical theme — the nurses had been asking passers by about the health of their websites. He insisted that there had also been male nurses and doctors. "There would have been female doctors if any of our sales people were female — but they're not," he told

I think it's political correctness going gang busters

NetRegistry CEO Larry Bloch

He also pointed out that women who were manning other booths were showing considerably more flesh than the nurses. "They are deliberately not wearing what one might call ultra-sexy outfits," he said.

According to Bloch, the costumes really had all been about the medical theme — a little fun — and were not supposed to have been offensive. "I think it's political correctness going gang busters," he said.

The thick and fast tweets drew annoyance from former Linux Australia president Pia Waugh, who currently works as a political advisor for Senator Kate Lundy, although Waugh didn't seem annoyed at the nurses' uniforms, only that people's admiration or disgust at the marketing ploy was clogging up the twitter tubes with related tweets.

"Imagine the 'nurses' at CeBIT are big hairy and Victor-esque men and perhaps we can all get back to interesting topics :)," she wrote.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Enterprise 2.0

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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  • Booth babaes a turnoff to women in ICT

    Hi all,

    just wanted to repost my original tweet, because I was mostly pointing out that these tactics (both the booth strategy and the ensuing slavering online requests for photos of the "naughty nurses") are just another deterrent to girls interested in ICT:

    piawaugh: Could those obsessing over @Netregistry "naughty nurses" @ #cebit pls remember there are enough turnoffs to women in ICT without this. Thx!
  • Perception=reality

    I have to back Pia here. And, since I've been extensively quoted from the public record, I guess I'm in a position to be absolutely clear.

    I'm all for clever marketing and I understand that Larry and NetRegistry had no intention of being sexist. But, perception *is* reality and if the audience is perceiving the nurse uniforms as objectifying, then they are.

    Attracting women to the ICT industry is on record over many years as being a hard ask. If the industry, in its behavior towards NetRegistry staff dressed as nurses is sexist, that just doesn't help.

    So, my argument is, when taken big picture, less about NetRegistry of whom I am a happy client, and more about the behavior of parts of the industry towards women dressed as nurses at CeBIT.

    Why couldn't they all have been doctors. Lab coats, anyone?
  • Let's not be sexist here,

    Why couldn't they have had male nurses for that matter?
  • Stupidity

    Why do people have a problem with this? Motor racing has been dressing girls up in skimpy outfits for the last 50 years and no one seems to have a whine about that.

    Lets face the facts. There are more men in the ICT industry than women. Men tend to like women. Netregistry puts good looking women in nurse outfits at CeBit, which attracts the vast majority of their audience....MEN! The same rule applies for the motor racing.

    If it's done tastefully (as Netregistry has) then why do these women's rights sycophants have a problem with it? Perception is reality, and its been the general perception of the majority of the populatation (at least since the first world war) that nurses are women and men are doctors. Whilst setting a stereotype, its true, my kids place doctors and nurses, my son plays the doctor, my daughter plays the nurse.

    If all of these womens' rights activist sycophants actually listen to what they are saying half the time, they would realise that if everyone adhered to their garbage, then the human race would become asexual and go extinct. There are fundamental differences between men and women (physically, emotionally and socially), why are we always trying to limit men to make way for women. If women can keep up, then they should do so on their own accord.

    Women have had the right to vote since 1901, and have had the same rights as men since. It's the same as other minority groups, allow them the same rights within society, but once you start giving extra benefits to minorities only you beginning to make the majority disadvantaged.

    If women have a problem with what Netreigstry have done, why did the women wearing the nurse outfits put them on and go to CeBit? Money? If someone offered you $1000 would you jump off the Harbrour Bridge? If you were offered $200k/yr to be a prostitute, would you do it?

    Different people have different views of what is reasonable, if you have a problem with Netregistry and their nurses, get off your soapbox and don't buy Netregistry products and services. Me on the other hand will be going to the V8 supercars to watch the cars and the girls, and I'll now be going to CeBit for the nurses (and a bit of IT).
  • Your missing the point!

    Since when did a few comments on twitter constitute an 'uproar' - thats just jorno hyperbole to make you read the story.

    More to the point, how is this even a news story? - Call me cynical but it looks to me like a vehicle to show a picture of said sexy nurses to appeal to znets demographic.

    I wish I could do my job without getting out of bed!
  • Read the article

    There were (are) male doctors also. Sorry if you missed them - perhaps they were busy getting lunch or using the amenities.

    Did you go to CeBIT?
  • Some perspective please

    1. The term "booth babes" being used by those that don't like our medical theme is to my mind far more degrading and disrespectful to woman that what they complain about. Detractors should take a look at their own culpability in using pejorative language and should try a bit of balance and tolerance.

    2. Netregistry is a fun, dedicated, professional organisation staffed by people from many, many different backgrounds, races, genders, ethnicities etc. We do a great job helping 100,000's of small businesses use the internet to grow and prosper.

    3. I think that modern Australia has moved on from 1970's class and gender warfare. We can smile, laugh, have a dig and move on. Absolute positions are the enemy of tolerance and harmony. Lets leave the extreme views where they belong.

    4. Isn't anyone interested in the Budget today?
  • It works!

    With all the fuss they created by doing that, I just registered 5 domain names with them and I never heard of them before! Good marketing!
  • Awesome

    That's great, i should somehow get people whinging about a non-issue my company created too.
  • Who's whining?

    "if the motor industry do it, why can't we?" Uh huh, and if they jumped off a bridge would you too? CeBIT is an ICT conference, and as such people going are from the industry and market. It is not like a motor sports event where that kind of behaviour is expected, and we have the additional issue of women in the industry, technical women (like me) having it shoved in our face (again) that we are not the norm, an aberration. The thing is, having low numbers of women in ICT is an Australian thing, we are worse than most developed nations for numbers of women, and you go to countries like Malaysia and India where women are a _majority_ in ICT, and I bet you wouldn't find booth babes at ICT conferences there.

    Get over it. I made a lighthearted comment on twitter that the feral comments starting too be made over twitter were silly and an additional turnoff for women in the industry. Everyone now trying to rationalise the nurses are just being silly and overreacting.

    By the way, Aboriginal women didn't get the vote in 1901, and women were only eligible to run themselves for government many years after. I'm guessing you are about as uneducated on this as you come across, so don't bother participating in such discussions. Stick to your red neck, 1901 worldview and please don't get in the way of other people's progress.
  • Whats the big deal?

    Companies have always used promo girls to draw crowds, so what's the big deal if NetRegistry does the same? Its just a bit of fun to brighten up an event and hopefully gain some more attention, good on them for trying!

    Pia, as others have quoted, if you actually walked around the exhibit you would have found plenty of other companies with girls showing a lot more skin and cleavage, so why don't you find something more important to twitter about and stop stirring over nothing!

    Honestly, for me the biggest issue was not the nurses outfits, but the fact that the girls had a kilo of makeup on their faces and that was the only thing I could concentrate on when speaking to them.

    Note to NetRegistry: next year up the quality and go easy on the makeup, for those feminists who are just trying to push their agenda, I suggest they find something more meaningful to argue over and get a life!
  • It's about Choice Luv

    Honestly Luv, I wouldn't jump off a bridge, but my outgoing brother probably would. It's all about choice. If women decides to dress as a nurse, who are you to take that away from her?

    Is she degrading herself as a woman, or celebrating her freedoms as a woman?
  • SOOO True!

    Now I know that all I have to do to get my business off the ground is have a booth at CeBIT with some chicks dressed up as nurses, then send some twitter messages saying how offended I am about it.

    Thanks ZDNet and the pseudo-politically correct free marketing chicks... oops I mean feminists.