The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is a tech trade show that takes place in Las Vegas every January. In the past, keynote addresses from have been given by CEOs of major companies, including Hulu and Intel.
Much like the very industry it represents and celebrates, CES has come under fire for a glaringly obvious gender disparity in keynote speakers. Out of the six speakers originally slated to speak at the event in January, five are white men.
For a high profile tech event to not consider the weight of this decision is cause for concern. Not only were no women included in the original keynote lineup, but Black and Latinx tech innovators were also noticeably absent. Refreshingly, many marketers and other leaders in tech were not altogether pleased about the initial announcement.
One group, GenderAvenger, which works to encourage equal gender representation in public dialogue, took immediate notice of the disproportionate slating of speakers and issued an ‘action alert’ calling on CES to make appropriate changes.
“For a show marketed as 'the world's gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies,' it sure seems like 'for all' really means 'for all men,'’ the post read.
CES responded, citing a track record of diverse speakers and women business leaders: “CES champions diversity of all types—gender, ethnicity, thought and beyond—and we seek to ensure our show reflects that value,” the statement read.
To be sure, a majority white male keynote lineup in 2017 does come across as rather tone deaf, but there are some other, more diversity-minded speaker highlights to keep an eye out for at CES.
Here are three female and minority-focused events and panelists at CES 2018 worth noting:
1. Twitter will host an event featuring only female speakers.
Twitter has come out to say that this event is a direct response to the widely criticized homogeneity of the keynote speaker lineup.
Among those included in the Twitter event are Black Girls Code founder Kimberly Bryant, Comcast senior vice president Myrna Soto, and Blavity CEO Morgan DeBaun.
Though it’s worth noting that the Twitter event is not officially part of CES, Karen Chupka, a senior VP at the Consumer Technology Association—which produces CES—has said: "We are thrilled that our member company is championing women in tech and hosting a strong panel of women leaders. We are still finalizing our keynote lineup and will have further announcements in the coming days."
2. CES is hosting a “keynote panel” that includes three (white) female panelists.
The panel is slated to feature CEO Nancy Dubuc of A+E Networks, Wenda Harris Millard of Medialink, and Kristin Patrick of PepsiCo. According to Senior VP Chupka, this panel has been “in the works” for months.
Chupka mentioned in response to criticism that keynote speakers must be presidents or CEOs of large entities with “recognition in the industry.” Though it’s difficult to say whether this statement was meant to be a can of worms, it certainly highlights that this problem is, indeed, much bigger than just speakers at a trade show. It’s indicative of how under-represented women are in such roles.
“There is a limited pool when it comes to women in these positions," Chupka wrote. "We feel your pain. It bothers us, too. The tech industry and every industry must do better.”
3. Women in Consumer Technology will highlight women shaping the industry.
Women in Consumer Technology (WICT) will present awards to six recipients of its 2018 Legacy Awards.
WICT is an organization that fights for the advancement of women in the tech industry, and their awards seek to honor women who are transforming the tech world.
WICT’s 2018 Legacy Awards include four Legacy honorees, one Woman to Watch, and one Inspiration Award. The full lineup and more information about the event are available on WICT’s website.
(Photo: Andelou Agency/Getty)