CES is Trying to Fix its Diversity problem. But is it Too Late?
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CES is Trying to Fix its Diversity problem. But is it Too Late?

Consumer Electronics Show, the world’s largest consumer tech fair, strives to tackle the issue of diversity by giving women and minorities a voice at the event, and by pouring $10 million into venture capital to support diversity in startups.

However, given the recent sexism controversy at the show this week, we can’t help but question if the organizer is really walking the talk.


Mention the CES, and the topic of gender inequality may not spring to mind right away. Nevertheless, the issue of sexism and diversity has long existed in the tech industry, as seen in the latest media backlash following the withdrawal of an “award-winning” sex toy for women from the annual Las Vegas show this week.

As part of the CES’s efforts to advocate diversity in the tech industry, the show organizer Consumer Technology Association (CTA) announced to pour a $10 million dollars fund in venture capital to support women, startups and other businesses.


“The technology industry needs to promote diversity,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), on Tuesday this week.


For years, women and minorities have been overlooked in the CES, one of the tech industry’s oldest and best-known trade shows.


However, it seems like CTA has finally learnt its lesson about gender equity and diversity, as 4 out of 9 keynote speakers at the event this week are women.


The show organizer’s efforts to promote diversity in the latest edition can be seen as its attempt to shake off its long-term reputation of neglecting women or minorities.

In fact, CTA came under heavy fire in 2017 when the 2018 keynote roster was first published, in which not a single woman, nor a single member of any underrepresented minority was included.


There was also an all-male lineup of mainstage speakers at the 2016 show.

In the past eight years, only three women have spoken on CES’s main stage: Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, General Motors CEO Mary Barra and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty.


"It seems when it comes to CES, objectifying women for enjoyment is fine, but promoting objects for their enjoyment is not." quoting from one of the pcmag article written by Chandra Steele

Sexist controversy is evident in the recent incident at CES 2019 this week, in which a female sex-toy has had its innovation award revoked from the show this year, while a male-targed sex doll was accepted in the show last year.


A film company called Naughty America, has shown its virtual reality products at CES every year since 2017. So people are used to walking around CES and seeing a private room full of men with headsets strapped on watching pornography.

CES is also dogged for having a high number of "booth babes" at the show, where scantily-dressed women promotes devices at the heavily-male-targeted conference. While a reduced number of them is spotted at the show this year, they are still present in a relatively toned-down manner.


Having "booth babe" models promoting innovative tech products, sets a tone to misrepresent women as objects and eye candy for exhibitors.

Camera brand Nikon also adopted a similar strategy to attract traffic, where a scantily clad model is propped on a pedestal so that people could test out the cameras by taking photos with her.


CES is also dogged for having a high number of "booth babes" at the show, where scantily-dressed women promotes devices at the heavily-male-targeted conference. While a reduced number of them is spotted at the show this year, they are still present in a relatively toned-down manner.


Having "booth babe" models promoting innovative tech products, sets a tone to misrepresent women as objects and eye candy for exhibitors.


Camera brand Nikon also adopted a similar strategy to attract traffic, where a scantily clad model is propped on a pedestal so that people could test out the cameras by taking photos with her.

"It is a slippery slope and you end up with this type of mentality that runs through industry, where women are objectified and are only useful if they look good." said Bobbie Carlton, the founder of Innovation Women, a speaker bureau for women.

In the tech industry where women and people of colour are outnumbered and underrepresented, it is important for a place like CES with 180,000 attendees and over 4,500 companies attending to understand the importance of gender diversity.


Source: Quartz

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