CES vows to address keynote speaker gender imbalance

8 Jan 2018

CES logo. Image: James Mattil/Shutterstock

CES boss Gary Shapiro says the conference will work harder to amplify women’s voices.

The world’s biggest technology festival, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), got off to a rocky start this year.

The Las Vegas event showcases the most innovative and exciting developments in consumer technology and attracts the interest of thousands of people.

All-male keynote panel

Despite the universal popularity of the event and consumer technology itself, the selection of top speakers at CES 2018 are all men, including Intel CEO Brian Krzanich and Jim Hackett of Ford. 2017 also saw an all-male keynote roster for the event.

From the infamous Google memo to Uber harassment allegations and the #MeToo movement, 2017 was a major year for highlighting existing deep-rooted problems in tech, namely gender imbalance and inequality.

In light of this past year, many campaigners saw the dearth of female speakers at CES as the perfect example of technology’s diversity issues.

CES said that there is a “limited pool when it comes to women in these positions”, referring to the fact that keynote speakers must be president or CEO of a large organisation with name recognition in the industry.

It went on to say that “the tech industry, and every industry, must do better”.

Diversity is key

Activist Gina Glantz noted the problem late last year, prompting the hashtag #CESSoMale. CES organiser, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), said she had generated a “meaningful dialogue” about the gender visibility issue.

Gary Shapiro of the CTA said the team would “redouble” its efforts to make women’s voices heard at next year’s event, and it has added Nancy Dubuc, CEO of A&E Networks, and 605 CEO Kristin Dolan to a panel on the future of video this year.

In a letter to Glantz, Shapiro said that although the conference had a wide range of female speakers, the lack of female keynoters was a problem.

He added: “Diversity matters because, to shape the future, we need to engage people of different backgrounds filled with creative influences. Diversity is key to innovation.”

Glantz tweeted in response, saying she hoped the discussion would be translated into direct action for 2019’s conference.

CES logo. Image: James Mattil/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects