People make mistakes. I think it’s in the definition of being human. The important thing is how you respond to it. Do you deny everything? Do you fix it? Do you ignore the problem? There are lots of different ways a person or organization could approach the situation. Often with vendors, it seems they go for the route of vague corporate speak that gives one a feeling of “sorry, not sorry.” This week a company messed up, apologized, and corrected the mistake quickly. I want to recognize them for it.
Air Sage is a company that provides data for market research, tourism, and transportation. They’ve been making lots of noise in the industry the past couple of years, and overall they seem like an engaged company with a good product. They recently conducted a survey of the transportation industry and published the results. There is a lot of valuable information in there, but there was also a page that reinforced some awful stereotypes of women, which was pointed out in a Tweet:
Dear @airsage. Pull your annual report, scrap this img, & make a giant donation to @WTS_Org. NOW. pic.twitter.com/c0u7BvotLP
— Sarah Fine (@fineplanner) November 10, 2014
I commend Sarah Fine for catching it and Tweeting about it. You can see from the subsequent discussion, a lot of people thought it was out of line. Hours later Air Sage responded:
#AirSageTranspoFacts We missed the mark & did not create the awareness we wanted. We apologize & will change images. The page is cut now.
— AirSage (@AirSage) November 10, 2014
And then today they re-released the report with a simple bar chart instead overly sexualized super-heroes. (No word if they donated to WTS, though it would be a great gesture.)
Who ever edited the document should have had more sense than to use those shapes to convey the information about the lack of women in leadership roles in transportation. I get that they wanted to make it fun and show women as super heroes of the industry, but those poses were straight out of some Rob Liefeld nightmare. Yes, they used imagery and stereotypes of women that hold women back to illustrate how women are being held back. Kind of clever in a terrible, straight out of the Onion way. If they wanted to have the report be more engaging and eye catching, they should have done something like the Lisa Frank inspired High Dessert Corridor EIR from Caltrans. (Never forget Brad!)
They made a pretty big mistake, owned it quickly and corrected it. I want to give special mention to their marketing guru Andrea who has been responding to many of the critical Tweets. Nobody wants to engage like that, but it does demonstrate how Air Sage approaches working with the public.
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