CES digs deeper hole as it claims adding more female voices to line up for 2019 ‘a challenge’

CES main stage

Annual technology conference CES faces more criticism for its lack of female representation after an open letter, which promised to rectify the issue for next year, said that doing so would be ‘a challenge.’

With the conference in Las Vegas kicking off this weekend, an open letter was issued, signed by the organisers’ president and chief executive Gary Shapiro and SVP of CES and corporate business strategy, Karen Chupka, to show that The Consumer Technology Association was listening to the angry responses this year’s line up had provoked due to having no women feature on its main stage.

By describing improving the diversity line-up next year as being ‘a challenge’ to find female tech professionals to speak on the main stage, it has come in for even more criticism.

“Diversity matters because to shape the future we need to engage people of different backgrounds filled with creative influences. Diversity is key to innovation. We are committed to changing the status quo.

“For us this means not just selecting a diverse group of speakers but encouraging diversity in STEM, in the tech industry and in corporate executive positions,” the letter read.

Later it promised: “A recent report from the Government Accountability Office found that “there remains a persistent lack of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in the technology workforce." We agree, especially for women in leadership roles. This is a global issue – not just within the technology sector –all industries and our society at large can and must do better. Those of us who produce events must do better too.

“It is a challenge. But we are up for it.”

As a result, social media users have strongly disagreed with the latter sentence with tech entrepreneurs both male and female taking to social media to voice their opinions.

The full letter can be read below:

We are writing because you have prompted a meaningful dialogue about the issue of gender visibility at CES 2018.

As we plan 2019 we will redouble our efforts to expand women’s voices throughout the conference and as featured speakers.

CES connects a diverse array of speakers with a global audience. We are excited about our speakers, and especially proud that the women on our stages across our show are both experts in their subjects and inspirational role models for future generations.

CES hosts hundreds of speakers and we time the announcement of their participation based on their confirmation, topics and panel completion. We recognize the initial set of keynote speakers announced were all men. Our keynote speaker list is similarly released consistent with speaker confirmation and corporate clearances. We are proud to say Nancy Dubuc, President and Chief Executive Officer A+E Networks is on the keynote stage and we will soon announce that Kristin Dolan, Founder and CEO of 605, will be joining her.

Diversity matters because to shape the future we need to engage people of different backgrounds filled with creative influences. Diversity is key to innovation. We are committed to changing the status quo. For us this means not just selecting a diverse group of speakers but encouraging diversity in STEM, in the tech industry and in corporate executive positions.

The Consumer Technology Association strives to empower women business leaders in a number of opportunities. For seven years, CES has been the presenting sponsor of the Women in CE Legacy awards, which is hosted each year at CES. More, we lead by example – all our CES department heads are female executives. We have also worked with groups like The Female Quotient in expanding their role at CES. We also produce our Innovate Celebrate conference which in 2017 featured 100 startups, half with female heads. As part of this event, the past two years we awarded complimentary exhibit space in Eureka Park, our home for startups at CES, to women-run companies.

A recent report from the Government Accountability Office found that “there remains a persistent lack of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in the technology workforce." We agree, especially for women in leadership roles. This is a global issue – not just within the technology sector –all industries and our society at large can and must do better. Those of us who produce events must do better too.

It is a challenge. But we are up for it.

In the meantime, we are excited about this year’s keynote speakers. We ask that you join us in celebrating and promoting all the women speakers at CES 2018. Don’t dismiss them simply because they aren’t serving as standalone keynoters. I’m sure you will agree all women voices count. Here are just a few fascinating leaders and innovators out of 242 women speakers at this year’s show to get excited about: · IBM’s CTO Bridget Karlin, who is leading the charge behind IBM’s Watson · US Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao, who is working to save lives through self-driving technologies and drones · Olympic Medalist Angela Ruggiero, who specializes in sports technology products and services · Acting FTC chairman Maureen Ohlhausen, who is ensuring competition · WWE’s Stephanie McMahon, who is responsible for the growth in popularity of pro wrestling · BBDO New York’s Tara Devaux, who is redefining entertainment and brand marketing · Hyperloop’s Anita Sengupta, who leads in design and technology for high-speed travel

We bring people from around the world to showcase their ideas of the future. That’s what makes CES unique. Inclusivity sparks innovation. We look forward to working with you and others to raise up diverse voices at CES, throughout the industry and around the world.

Here are the thoughts of readers from The Drum on the lack of diversity within this year's keynote line up.

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