Publisher and events company Media 10 has apologised for the presence of "inappropriately dressed" promotional models at this year's UK Construction Week, following social media criticism from industry figures.
Four female actors in "Vegas show girl" outfits presented awards and posed for photographs with visitors to UK Construction Week (UKCW), which took place from 10-12 October 2017 in Birmingham.
The women were employed as part of a Vegas-themed stand created by event sponsor Easy-Trim, a manufacturer of roofing ventilation and dry fix products.
It attracted heavy criticism from architects and industry figures, who questioned whether using women to sell products was appropriate in an industry struggling to promote equality.
Media 10 was prompted to issue a statement of apology. In a statement sent to Dezeen by events director Nathan Garnett, the company insisted that UKCW does not condone the "use of promotional models". But this particular instance slipped through the net.
"None of us want to return to the days where promotional models were used as marketing method to attract visitors to exhibition stands," said the statement later published on the event's website.
"The use in this instance was described to us as part of the overall theme, along with Elvis and other stage-dressed actors."
— Tamsie Thomson (@TamsieThomson) October 11, 2017
"What happened to bringing equality to the sector?" tweeted Thomson.
"Not an appropriate choice of entertainment. Sexualising women is not supportive of equality in construction," replied Dapper.
Replying to Thomson and Dapper, a spokesperson from UK Construction Week tweeted: "#UKCW2017 is proud and committed to support equality, which is why we dedicated our day 2 seminar programme to diversity in construction."
Media 10 reiterated this in its statement, stating that the event was proud of "championing diversity in the industry".
"At this year's UKCW we were aware of the promotional drive from Easy-Trim that involved Vegas-style promotional staff (predominantly female) as well as an Elvis impersonator, roulette wheel and giant slot machine," it continued.
"For those offended by the use of promotional models at exhibitions we would like to stress that we at UKCW do not condone the practice. In this case it was all staged in the context of a Las Vegas theme."
Media 10 said guidance was offered to all of the 650-plus exhibitors prior to the event but that a more thorough system would be deployed in the future.
"We will put in place a rigorous monitoring system for stands in future years which will include the prohibition of inappropriately dressed staff on stands (male or female)," said the statement.
"We will strive to continue the work we have done in promoting diversity in the workplace and we apologise if anyone was offended by the content on this particular stand."
In a statement released by Easy-Trim, the company's marketing director Rachael Gibson said its "meticulously planned" theme Why Gamble? was intended to promote British manufacturing as the UK moves towards Brexit.
"As marketing director for Easy-Trim and being a female professional in the construction industry, I am passionate about our brand, our development, the diversity across our business and its work force, and of course promoting diversity and equal opportunity throughout the industry," she said.
"Our theme and the concept was to deliver a message, not to disrespect anyone's views, nor indicate a lack of support of continual improvement in diversification in our sector," continued Gibson.
"I again want to apologise for any upset caused and stress that each element of the stand was as important as the other and made up our vision of the stand theme."
The stand was awarded Best in Show by UK Construction Week for its design and theme.
"Our stand consisted of a full sized roulette wheel and black jack table, and a fun oversized one arm bandit, and to support this we engaged 'themed professionals', specifically a male and female croupier, a male Elvis impersonator, two female professional stilt walkers in traditional Vegas show girl outfits, and two female professional dancers also in traditional Vegas show girl outfits," she explained.
"Our core principles resonate throughout everything we do, and for any element of our stand at this event to upset just one person causes myself and all the team, both female and male considerable regret and upset and for this we apologise."
Official statistics published by the UK government earlier this year revealed that white men are dominating the creative industries, with women filling less than 40 per cent of jobs in the sector.
Dezeen columnist Anna Winston argued that the architecture industry has a culture of quietly condoning sexist behaviour in her latest piece written following the Harvey Weinstein scandal.