Microsoft 'metermaids' miff conference delegates

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Microsoft has infuriated Australians after hiring a bunch of half-naked women to pep up a developers' conference - which had a key session devoted to 'Women in IT'.

Apparently, 'meter maids' dressed in tiny gold bikinis are a regular sight on the country's Gold Coast. They were introduced in 1965 by a local businessman to counter the bad image created by new parking regulations, and strolled the streets feeding the meters of absent-minded drivers. Presumably, therefore, Microsoft thought it was simply providing a little local color.

But many of the 2,700 delegates to the conference failed to agree.

"I didn't see them myself but think it was a badly done attempt at providing local Gold Coast context," said Catherine Eibner, who hosted the Women in IT lunch, on Twitter.

"Thanks Microsoft AU for your sensitive attempts to help make CS attractive to women," another delegate said.

Microsoft even managed to muck up its apology. After assuring the Sydney Morning Herald that it had been unaware of the skimpy costumes, it was forced to backtrack after the chief meter maid, Roberta Aitchison, said that Microsoft had specified the costumes itself.

"Not sure it was our marketing people, but, yes, no one will be confused that this is just wrong," admitted Tracey Fellows, Microsoft Australia's managing director. "This is not acceptable."