women in tech

Nine West's 'Husband Hunting' campaign

I was walking through the Westfield mall in downtown San Francisco when I saw a marketing campaign in the Nine West window that showed a woman's foot clad in a leopard print high heel with the caption "Starter Husband Hunting". First of all, I don't know what "Starter Husband Hunting" means ... Starter? Finisher? What? If the reason for the word "Starter" in there is clear to anyone, please enlighten me. After getting over the confusion of what that meant, my range of emotions sped through disbelief, amusement, disappointment, anger, and conviction. 

Women all over the globe are louder than ever in empowering themselves. Beyonce blazes "Feminist" on the backdrop of her shows. Yet a multi million dollar shoe retailer seems painfully stuck in the past, glued to archaic gender norms. 

Here's a letter to the female CEO, Kathy Nedorostek-Kaswell. I hope she reads it. 

Dear Kathy,

My name is Anarghya Vardhana. I'm a 25 year old professional living in San Francisco. I've worked in the tech sector for the past 4 years, after graduating from Stanford University with honors. I met my husband at Stanford, but hardly "hunted" for him. We met each other in physics class, and found our relationship flourishing through common interests such as football, technology, travel, and a strong affinity for problem solving. 

I'm writing to you with regards to the "husband hunting" product campaign. You might have had nothing to do with it. Heck, the campaign might have launched without you even hearing about it. Here's my attempt at helping you hear so that you may take it down and such that you may avoid such demoralizing approaches to product marketing in the future. 

I was the only girl in all my honors math and science classes for a very long time. Once a boy told me that the only reason I got into Stanford was because of my gender ... let's just ignore the fact that I was minor celebrity in the international science fair scene and had a published math theorem by the time I was 16. 

I grew up with a large extended Indian family, and was told by many that I should spend a lot more time learning how to cook so that I could be a good wife someday. I've even had people tell me that I'm not "good wife material" because I'm too focused on my career. 

Women and girls are finally learning that it is OK to deviate from expected social norms. It is OK to focus on your career. You can still be a good wife, a good mother, a good female if you have interests that are different from what has been historically expected and in some cases, demanded. When we are making so much progress, it pains me to see Nine West take us 10 steps back in the fight towards professional and personal equality. 

This is my humble cease and desist request. It is too risky and too damaging to put something like this in front of millions of women across the country and world who will see this. Some of us will be appalled, but many more will glaze over it and suffer from its subliminal effects.