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CEO DATELINE – CTA blasted for lack of female keynote speakers at trade show

Dec. 5, 2017
By Walt Williams

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Update: The Consumer Technology Association announced Tuesday that a previously planned “keynote panel” at its upcoming CES trade show would include at least one female tech industry executive, the industry news site AdAge reported.

The panel will feature A&E Networks president and CEO Nancy Dubuc, two male panelists and other panelists yet to be announced. Karen Chupka, senior vice president in charge of CES, said the panel had been planned for months but the event’s organizers usually spread out speaker announcements in the weeks leading up to the event in January.

The Consumer Technology Association is being criticized for a lack of women among keynote speakers at its upcoming trade show, but the group said the absence is part of a larger problem about gender representation in the technology industry.

CTA produces the Consumer Electronics Show, one of the largest trade shows in the U.S. The women’s group GenderAvenger noted in a Nov. 29 “action alert” that all the keynote speakers at the upcoming CES in January were men. The group said the show’s organizers “have over 5 weeks to make this right” and launched social media campaign designed to shame CTA into action.

“If we move fast and build an even bigger groundswell of voices to call for better representation at CES 2018, we can make a difference to a major tech industry event already well-known for its gender imbalance, so please tweet, share this on Facebook, and email your friends and colleagues,” GenderAvenger said in a Nov. 4 update to its original alert.

CTA replied to the campaign with a statement on its website by Senior Vice President Karen Chupka, who oversees CES. She noted that two-thirds of CES staff are female and that its executive team is entirely women.

Chupka also noted CES has featured female keynote speakers in the past and that this year’s event featured 275 female speakers, with a similar lineup for the 2018 show. Keynote speakers must be a president or CEO of a large organization with name recognition in the tech industry, and “there is a limited pool when it comes to women in these positions,” she said.

“We feel your pain. It bothers us, too. The tech industry and every industry must do better,” Chupka said.

Chupka added that CES would continue to spotlight diversity in the industry and plans to make more announcements concerning its speaker lineup.

CES has been accused of sexism in the past for allowing exhibitors to showcase attractive female models—sometimes called “booth babes”—long after other events phased out the practice. The show has moved away from the use of booth babes in recent years, according to news reports.