GoDaddy Supports Women in Technology: Sexist Image Changing?

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GoDaddy announced a partnership with the Anita Borg Institute (ABI) on Monday. The Anita Borg Institute was founded in an effort to support and increase the impact of women in technology and to inspire and guide women in the technology field. This news comes shortly after a rumors of a GoDaddy initial public offering.

Approximately one-third of the leadership team at GoDaddy are women. Among them are the Chief Technology, Communications and Marketing Officers. The press release indicates this is in contrast to the number of women in technology leadership positions in general. Most Fortune 500 companies have boards with less than 17 percent women.

GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving has long been involved with supporting women in technology including involvement with the Society of Women Engineers, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing and the GoDaddy creation Women in Technology network. He was appointed CEO last January. Consistent with his interest in promoting women in technology he recruited Elissa Murphy as CTO just a couple of months after joining the company.

Last month, GoDaddy appointed Betsy Rafael to its board of directors. She is the first female member of the board. This was followed by an announcement a few days later that GoDaddy would sponsor Close The Gap App™, a coaching tool that helps women create strategies to further their careers.

Putting more women in executive positions and supporting women friendly causes could be part of an effort to change GoDaddy’s image as a sexist company that objectifies women in its advertisements. Media, online communities and articles have criticized GoDaddy’s sexist advertising, including the female-centric business site, Etsy. Forbes writer Jeff Bercovici described the ads in an interview with Chief Marketing Officer Barb Rechterman: “They’re the ones that typically feature racecar driver Danica Patrick or another attractive woman in an advanced state of undress, gyrating, often for no obvious reason.”

A Time article discussed past ad campaigns with Irving. He noted they got a lot of attention but bordered on inappropriate. Although they changed advertising companies in 2012 and committed to less “sleazy” ads, its Superbowl 2014 ad still included Danica Patrick, but in a muscle suit rather than showcasing her body as the commercials have done in the past. In October the WHIR reported,  “When the market you serve is 48 percent women, you have to change the way you speak to that audience,” Irving says.

Could a less controversial image help if GoDaddy is indeed seeking underwriting for an IPO? They initially filed in 2006 but backed out due to poor performance of tech IPOs that year. A company’s reputation can be a factor when seeking funding. Underwriters need to believe numbers can be trusted and a solid reputation in every facet of the business could support that.

Regardless of GoDaddy’s intention, it’s good to see a trend towards greater support and respect of women in technology fields. To learn more about supporting women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) careers, visit The Office of Science and Technology.

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