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What you see is what you get?

Here are the real women from the industry!

A picture is worth a thousand words, according to the famous saying. But what does that mean when walking the halls of trade shows? Or scouring media platforms like Shutterstock for images? I don’t always like the pictures looking back at me.

Not just because the models look staged; I can live with yet another of those fake smiling people, clipboard in hand (or, these days, tablets). But take a closer look and you’ll see they are almost exclusively women. Gazing pensively into the distance or looking to an (off-screen) co-worker for reassurance.

I presume the men are too busy installing equipment or leading boardroom meetings? Wearing shiny, brand-new safety helmets (and sometimes goggles), gesturing assertively in their freshly pressed suits. Heavily posed photoshoots, obviously, but always in action.

Why are women still cast as the pretty face standing next to the ceo, the consumer, waste-picking volunteer, mum or – a classic – the secretary?

“Life is a construction site” full of scrap — and swimsuit models?

It gets worse when the circus comes to town, those big trade events that draw in thousands of visitors. I understand that brands rely on eye-catchers but is dangling a half-naked woman in front of potential clients the only thing they can think of? Aren’t those days long over? Haven’t we agreed it’s tacky and unprofessional?

I can’t be the only female delegate who rolls her eyes at these posters. If you can call them that; centrefolds is more like it. Ugh. Even established names such as Seda rely on such cheap tricks. Does the budget of this car depollution expert stretch no further – or does its lack imagination?

If we are – finally – shown ‘in action’, we’re wearing costumes. A blue plaid blouse and ill-fitting gloves, with overalls rounding out the look. This doesn’t represent the women in scrap I’ve met; ranging from seasoned ceos who grew up in the industry to engineers, traders, researchers, sales managers catering to clients in multiple continents, big data-savvy marketeers and the loyal teams on the ground disassembling devices with great precision.

The recycling community is a skilled, strong-willed, outspoken bunch. Not the clueless robots I come across while browsing photo databases or the blonde babes hired to ‘man’ the booths at conventions. No, the female entrepreneurs in my network dress with confidence and character. They know who they are and what it takes to get the job done.

And they don’t need a damn clipboard/tablet as a prop.

The difference between pictures and real life is startling. If it weren’t so stupid it would almost be insulting. But we’ve got used to the stereotype, the jokes and the casual snide remarks. I have high expectations for the future, though. And I’d like to see those translated into practice.

Surely, we can do better. Can’t we put our heads together — and get them out of the gutter while we’re at it? That would be refreshing.

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