White House senior advisor Ivanka Trump attends a discussion on “Women Entrepreneurs Through Finance and Markets” at the World Bank on October 18, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
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The head of CES defended the organizers’ decision to invite Ivanka Trump as a keynote speaker at the event.
With the daughter of and adviser to President Trump set to deliver her keynote address on Tuesday, some have criticized the organizers for overlooking other women with established careers in tech. However, Gary Shapiro, CEO and President of the Consumer Tech Association, which organizes CES, stands by the decision.
“There’s a lot of focus on jobs of the future, and certainly the keynote that I’ll be doing with Ivanka Trump will be focusing on… how the industry is working with the government on this very important issue,” he told the BBC on Sunday.
Shapiro is set to interview Trump for her keynote talk about “how the administration is advocating for employer-led strategies that invest in reskilling workers, create apprenticeships and develop K-12 STEM education programs,” according to the CES website.
The three-day long CES conference in Las Vegas is expected to attract almost 200,000 attendees.
“CES has consistently proven to be one of the most influential technology events in the world and 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,” Ivanka Trump said when she was initially announced as a keynote speaker.
The ‘token woman appearance’
The announcement that Ivanka Trump was given a sought-after keynote spot at the conference didn’t sit right with some, many of whom said the decision is another way the tech industry is overlooking women leaders in the sector. Critics of the decision took to Twitter to air their frustrations, with many calling to “#boycottCES.”
Founder of The Heart of Tech and Forbes columnist Carolina Milanesi wrote last week that the decision to include Trump on the keynote speakers list continues a tradition of overlooking women in tech at CES. Milanesi pointed out that in both 2017 and 2018 the CES keynote lineup failed to include a single woman on the main stage.
“Given the track record we have had at CES and the state of the tech industry I just shared, you might now better understand the frustration of seeing Ivanka Trump selected to be one of the two women delivering a keynote,” she wrote in a column for Forbes. “If you are a woman in tech, like me, you are very familiar with the T.WA., the ‘token woman appearance’ on keynote stages and panels.”
Like much of the tech industry, CES has been criticized for its lack of inclusion and objectification of women. For example, Shapiro defended the practice of hiring models to staff CES booths in 2012, telling the BBC, “Sometimes it is a little old school, but it does work. People naturally want to go towards what they consider pretty.”
CES booths have largely abandoned the practice of hiring models in recent years.
This year’s CES keynote lineup includes eight events with 20 total speakers and moderators, half of whom are women. Among the women set to speak are CEO of Quibi Meg Whitman and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.