CES, the eading consumer-electronics trade show, is facing criticism after picking Ivanka Trump to serve as its keynote speaker next month in Las Vegas, after years of being accused of overlooking the role of women in technology.
The selection of Donald Trump’s daughter and top adviser exposes the vast electronics expo to charges that when, finally, it invites a female keynote speaker, it invites one with limited experience in technology.
“This is a terrible choice on so many levels but also – what an insult to the YEARS AND YEARS of protesting how few women were invited to keynote & being told it was a pipeline problem while similarly-situated men were elevated,” tech commentator Rachel Sklar tweeted. “There are so many great, qualified women. Shame.”
CES, formally known as the Consumer Electronics Show, confirmed this week that Trump will join a keynote discussion on jobs and the future of work alongside Gary Shapiro, the president of CTA, the firm that produces the event considered the largest of its kind globally.
“I am excited to join this year for a substantive discussion on the how the government is working with private-sector leaders to ensure American students and workers are equipped to thrive in the modern, digital economy,” Trump said in a statement.
While the president’s daughter has been involved in White House efforts to boost the economic empowerment of women and their families, and spoke at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in The Hague this year, her engagement with technology is limited.
Shapiro said in a statement: “We welcome her to the CES keynote stage, as she shares her vision for technology’s role in creating and enabling the workforce of the future.”
But set alongside Quibi chief Meg Whitman and founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, NBCUniversal’s Linda Yaccarino, Daimler’s Ola Källenius, Delta’s Ed Bastian, Samsung’s Hyun-Suk Kim and Salesforce’s Marc Benioff – all speakers at the tradeshow – Ivanka Trump’s own business credentials appear slight.
“If they can have a female 007, they can have equally badass female keynote speakers in the tech sector,” said Cindy Chin, the chief executive of the consultancy CLC Advisors and founder of Women on the Block, which promotes the empowerment and inclusion of women in technology.
“There needs to be more systematic representation of speakers across the board and not just for keynotes,” Chin said. “It would be better if the background of the keynote speaker actually fit the industry it is serving and inspirational rather than talking heads and political.”
Given her relative lack of experience, the selection of Ivanka Trump for CES highlights an enduring gender bias in the tech, electronics, and mobile industries – a bias that endures despite women controlling $29tn of spending worldwide, Chin said.
“Women purchase over 50% of traditional male products, including automobiles, home improvement products, and consumer electronics. Of all consumer electronics, over 61% of sales are initiated by women including the rise of mobile, AI and machine learning products,” said Chin, a member of Nasa’s Women in Data open innovation program.