We're just gonna give it to you straight: Goldman Sachs was a major sponsor of the Women Engineers Code conference at Harvard University last weekend. The swag they distributed at the event included Goldman Sachs-branded cosmetic mirrors and nail files. And, Instagram user @yuqz posted a picture of the gifts with a serious thought: "#goldmansachs brought nail files and mirrors to the women's coding event. Not sure if this is #sexyfeminism or gender stereotyping."
Fair question — because we're not sure ourselves. Perhaps if these were the only gifts the Wall Street bank brought, we'd be more inclined to raise an eyebrow. In addition to the grooming products, the swag bags also included T-shirts and key chains that also functioned as headphone-cord holders. When one commenter asked @yuqz if she'd used the nail file yet, she responded "No, but it's sitting there, in my cabinet, waiting for my nails to chip after a long day of coding :)." It certainly doesn't justify the mirrors, but maybe nail files are actually something female coders complain about needing every day.
What's more, Harvard Women in Computer Science — the student group that organized the event — didn't see a problem with these gifts. In an e-mail to The New York Times, a representative of the group acknowledged that they knew the nail files were coming, and they were okay with any and all giveaways the sponsors generously offered. Still, Goldman Sachs issued an apology in a statement, saying "We are strong supporters of efforts to recruit and retain women in technology. We apologize if the gifts gave anyone offense."
So, what's the real problem here? Anyone who's ever gotten a bright yellow XXL tee at a conference can tell you that not all swag is created equal. Shouldn't the female coders be happy to see a more personalized and useful gift? The issue here is that these gifts wouldn't have been handed out at a coed conference. They feel like a gendered add-on. But, we should probably be more concerned with the hashtag #sexyfeminism, which perpetuates the stereotype that feminists — and feminism — aren't, in fact, sexy things. (The New York Times)