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08/27/2014 10:26 EDT | Updated 08/27/2014 10:59 EDT

Dear Kate Ads Feature Female Tech CEOs Modeling Underwear

A new Dear Kate ad campaign has stirred up a lot of strong reactions.

The New York-based underwear retailer released a lookbook named after innovative female programmer Ada Lovelace that a) features female tech executives (cool!) and b) shows them modeling Dear Kate's new underwear line.

Many of the executives include CEOs from tech startups including Skillcrush, CoderDojo NYC, Black Girls Code and LadyBits as well as fashion blogger Sarah Conley and Refinery29 engineer Patty Delgado.

dear kate

Naturally, the photo shoot has stirred up a bit of controversy, due to the nature of the ad (it's sexist, it's a backwards step for women in the tech industry are just some of the responses).

"Presenting yourself undressed has inherently sexual overtones, and undermines being seen as a serious technologist," Elissa Shevinsky, CEO of Glimpse Labs, told Time magazine.

But proponents of the campaign say the photo shoot is empowering for women, especially in an age where models are still considered the ideal form of beauty.

"I run a company and you’re trying to have gravitas when you’re a CEO," said one of the ad's models, Adda Birnir, who is the CEO and founder of Skillcrush. "I was a little bit like, 'Is it a bad idea to participate in an underwear modeling shoot?' But it’s a feminist company…and I think it’s so important to support companies that are doing work like that. That overshadowed any of my concerns."

Julie Sygiel, the founder and CEO of Dear Kate, hired the executives with the goal of making people think about what they do, rather than focus on their looks.

"We believe women should be taken seriously regardless of what they are wearing," Sygiel told The Huffington Post in an email. "This goes for women in any profession, as what someone is wearing has no bearing on their capability or intelligence."

"If someone views our campaign as perpetuating sexism, it's because they have certain expectations of women," she wrote. "The way we see the world is that women can be just as powerful in underwear as they are in a power suit. It's not fair for women in tech to be singled out and confined to more conservative behavior simply because they work in a male-dominated field."

What do you think? Is the ad campaign sexist or is it empowering?

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