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CEO DATELINE – Tech trade show praised for adding more female speakers

Jan. 7, 2019
By Walt Williams

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A year after the Consumer Technology Association’s CES trade show was criticized for not featuring any female keynote speakers, the event is being praised for taking steps to include more women in its lineup, the Associated Press reported Monday.

Four of the nine keynote speakers at this year’s CES are women, according to the news agency. As a result, the activist group that raised the issue last year, GenderAvenger, sent the show’s organizers a letter with a “Gold Stamp of Approval” for their diversity efforts.

“There is no question we keep trying to do better,” CTA CEO Gary Shapiro told the news agency.

CES is one of the largest trade shows in the U.S. and a major event in the tech industry, as many new and upcoming products debut at the show. This year’s show kicks off Tuesday in Las Vegas and will run through Friday.

CTA has been criticized in the past for not making CES more inclusive. The association has allowed exhibitors to continue to use “booth babes” to draw men to their booths, although the practice has noticeably declined in recent years, the AP reported. Last year’s absence of female speakers riled people who are concerned that the male-dominated tech industry too often discourages women from pursuing tech careers.

The controversy also was part of a larger debate about whether trade show organizers are actively working to provide welcoming environments for women. Several groups spent 2018 revising their trade show code of conduct to strengthen policies on sexual harassment, with several organizations—including ASAE—launching a task force on the subject the same year.