In late 2017, CES–the tech industry’s enormous annual new-product extravaganza–caught flak from a group called the Gender Avenger which fights to give women a voice in the public arena. That’s because no women were among the six CEOs chosen to give keynote addresses during CES 2018, which was held last January in Las Vegas. It was the second consecutive year with a men-online lineup. The Consumer Technology Association, CES’s organizer, blamed the gender disparity on the shortage of female CEOs among large, well-known tech companies, and pointed out that hundreds of women were among the presenters at the show in non-keynote sessions.
When CES 2019 rolls around next year, however, the week’s first keynote slot–once famously reserved for Microsoft’s Bill Gates each year–will be filled by IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, who also keynoted in 2016. The CTA hasn’t yet announced the other CEOs who will get keynote spots, so there’s a chance Rometty won’t be the only woman onstage. (Remarkably, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki seems never to have given a CES keynote.)
I persist in believing that CES keynotes are usually so bland and quickly forgotten that (A) being deprived of the opportunity to give one isn’t a tragedy and (B) the CTA should ask smart technologists who aren’t CEOs to give keynotes, which would make the whole exercise more interesting as well as dramatically increasing the pool of women candidates.