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CEO DATELINE – BIO threatens to kick out members for sponsoring event with topless women

June 13, 2018
By Walt Williams

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A party held in conjunction with the Biotechnology Innovation Organization’s recent convention in Boston  featured topless women, leading the association to threaten to eject members if they sponsor the party in the future, the news site STAT reported Tuesday.

The June 6 Party At BIO Not Associated With BIO, or PABNAB, is a networking event in which BIO International Conference attendees typically dress in costume and party into the night. As the title suggests, the event is not affiliated with BIO.

However, the most recent PABNAB featured at least two topless women dancing on stage with logos of sponsoring companies painted onto their bodies, upsetting some attendees. Some social media users shared a list of companies sponsoring the party and encouraged others to contact the businesses to “tell them how you feel about it.”

One person angered about the incident was Alnylam Pharmaceuticals CEO John Maraganore, who is chairman of BIO’s board of directors. He told STAT the association was warning members that if they sponsor PABNAB in the future, they will be kicked out of the trade group.

The news site Biocentury reported that BIO CEO Jim Greenwood is speaking directly with PABNAB organizers and sponsors about the incident.

“At a time when we’re trying to get past workplace discrimination and bias and unconscious bias, and trying to be inclusive, overly objectifying women in this way is not helpful,” Greenwood said.

The CEO of a consulting company that co-sponsors the event said told Biocentury the party was meant to be “edgy and artsy.”

The representation of women at trade shows and meetings has been re-evaluated in recent years as the industry tries to become more inclusive. The Consumer Technology Association, for example, has been criticized for allowing exhibitors to continue to use “booth babes”— scantily clad women whose only purpose is to attract men to exhibits. CTA and other organizations also have been criticized for not featuring more female speakers at their events.

More recently, several associations formed a coalition to address sexual harassment in the meetings industry. The new group will identify tools and develop new resources to assist in educating individuals and the events industry about the problem, according to a joint statement.