Wait, what…? That was my reaction when I first read this article referencing the lack of female keynote speakers at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Conference (CES) being held from January 9-12, 2018 in Las Vegas. I had to verify we were in 2017 and not 1950. After all, this annual event is hosted by the Consumer Technology Association and women are by far the largest group of consumers in any American household.
When researching the keynote speaker list, you will find that CES prominently touts its own diversity illustrated on their website and is quoted as saying, “Every year, CES showcases a diverse group of speakers touching on nearly every topic, including key trends and emerging technologies. We’re proud of our record in welcoming such a wide group of speakers.”
The imagery to accompany the verbiage is even quite reassuring.
So, why then, is this year’s keynote speaker lineup six males? If this negligence was handled in an unassuming, apologetic way, the need to continue to write on this topic wouldn’t exist. However, the initial reaction was to deny the existence of a qualified pool of female executives and finger point to that as the problem. To the Consumer Technology Association (CTA): yes, the lack of females in leadership roles is appalling but you are not helping the problem by showing a lack of commitment to find and celebrate the talent that does exist, and doing so on a global stage where you claim to be so proud of your diversity.
It must be noted that the CTA is the organization in direct control over the qualifications to become a keynote speaker and their requirements have evolved over the last 50 years. However, this year, the CTA acknowledges they have to be extremely selective in who they let occupy the global stage and of what name recognition exists or they will have trouble in the future recruiting high-caliber talent. Oh, got it. So, since there’s such a shortage of prominent males in technology leadership, you don’t want to offend them in case they don’t want to associate with the up and coming women and minorities you decide to feature? Noted.
In an attempt to remedy the situation, the CES released a keynote panel that includes women in which they alluded to a direction they were going in as well as call attention to how diverse they are “compared to other conferences having 275 female speakers for the 2017 conference.” Again, the CES and its leadership, the CTA, is being evasive about their apparent inability to truly represent innovation despite their graphical and written portrayal of such. As a frame of reference, this year the CES has approximately 800 speakers throughout all its events so that equates to 34% being good enough.
In response to the fury surrounding the lack of diversity at the upcoming CES, Twitter announced an event compiled of all female high-profile speakers.
So, I ask, do you feel represented at the world’s largest technology conference? Why or why not?