A major US bitcoin conference has been slammed for being "geared towards celebrating male chauvinist pigs" after organisers invited 5,000 guests to a late-night networking opportunity at a huge Miami strip club.
Up until 11pm, when the event technically came to an end, guests were served drinks by lingerie-clad women. But after that time, many badge-wearing crypto traders chose to stay on and party into the night, according to a report published by Bloomberg on Thursday (1 February).
"Join us at E11even for some networking and R&R. Or dancing," an invitation read.
Women at the $1,000-a-ticket North American Bitcoin Conference in mid-January said they left the club as strippers emerged. They later criticised the event online.
The CEO of the conference's organiser, Keynote, Moe Levin, initially told Bloomberg that it was not his company's fault if some attendees felt uncomfortable with the choice of venue.
At first he said it was "the ideal layout for networking" but as the dust settled he changed his line and called the event a "misstep".
He told Bloomberg: "We always aim to be as inclusive as possible and create a safe environment." He promised that changes would be made for next year's conference. It turned out that 85 of 88 speakers were male.
Jeff Scott, a New York cryptocurrency trader who was at a table of 12 on the night, said: "We're a bunch of dudes with a lot of money in our 20s. We like naked girls. If you don't like it, that's fine, but you're not going to expect us to change."
But a major corporate sponsor, Dash Core Group Inc, said the firm was "deeply disappointed" in the choice of venue. Its CEO claimed that it was not aware that a strip club had been chosen. He called it "wrong, unprofessional and [it has] damaged the reputation of the entire industry".
Hadjar Homaei, co-founder of a tech start-up, posted photos from the night on Twitter and detailed her experience. She said a man had offered her crypto to go on stage.
"I met with some wonderful gentlemen the next day who were as appalled by what they had seen & had left the club immediately, including some folk from @Dashpay," she added.
"But I still wonder, wasn't anyone among the organisers with the backbone and judgment to say this was a terrible idea?!"
Zineb Belmkaddem, a Washington-based cryptocurrency trader who was at the event and chose to leave the party, commented under the Twitter thread.
She wrote: "As a female participant in the conference, I have to agree fully and completely. The after event was appalling and geared towards celebrating male chauvinist pigs, and pretty much alienating the rest of the participants, particularly women."
Belmkaddem spoke to Bloomberg about her experience. She said: "There was a message being sent to women, that, 'OK, this isn't really your place. This is where the boys roll.'"