Tech’s gad­get show edges closer to gen­der eq­uity

The News-Times (Sunday) - - Sunday Business -

The world’s largest tech con­fer­ence has ap­par­ently learned a big les­son about gen­der eq­uity.

CES, the huge an­nual con­sumer-elec­tron­ics show in Las Ve­gas, caught ma­jor flak from ac­tivists in late 2017 when it un­veiled an all-male lineup of key­note speak­ers for the sec­ond year in a row. Although it later added two fe­male keynot­ers , the gath­er­ing’s “boys’ club” rep­u­ta­tion re­mained in­tact. It didn’t help that one of the un­sanc­tioned events latch­ing on to CES last year was a night­club fea­tur­ing fe­male “robot strip­pers.”

This year, four of the nine cur­rent keynot­ers are

women. Gen­derAvenger, the ac­tivist group that raised a ruckus last year, re­cently sent CES or­ga­niz­ers a con­grat­u­la­tory let­ter and awarded the show a “Gold Stamp of Ap­proval” for a ros­ter of key­note and “fea­tured” speak­ers that it says is 45 per­cent women — 60 per­cent of them women of color.

It’s a sig­nif­i­cant change for CES, which like most tech con­fer­ences re­mains dis­pro­por­tion­ately male, just like the in­dus­try it serves. Even ab­sent the robot dogs, sci-fi wor­thy gad­gets and “booth babes” CES has been known for, you could read­ily peg it as a tech­nol­ogy show from the bath­room lines alone — where men shift un­com­fort­ably as they wait their turn while women waltz right in.

The four-day CES show opens Tues­day, though me­dia pre­views be­gin Sun­day. Keynot­ers this year in­clude IBM CEO Ginni Rometty; Lisa Su, CEO of chip­maker Ad­vanced Mi­cro De­vices; and U.S. Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Elaine Chao. The en­tire fea­tured speaker list is cur­rently half fe­male, although the ex­act per­cent­age won’t be known un­til af­ter the event. “There is no ques­tion we keep try­ing to do bet­ter,” said Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Con­sumer Tech­nol­ogy As­so­ci­a­tion, which or­ga­nizes CES.

“Di­ver­sity is about hav­ing peo­ple who see things dif­fer­ently — frankly, dis­agree with you and tell you that you are stupid,” said Ta­nia Yuki, CEO of so­cial me­dia an­a­lyt­ics com­pany Share­ablee and an at­tendee of CES for the past sev­eral years. The big ques­tion, she says, is whether CES has re­ally lis­tened to its crit­ics.

As­so­ci­ated Press file photo

A model per­forms last Jan­uary at a dis­play for Sony cam­eras at CES In­ter­na­tional in Las Ve­gas.

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