“This is a man’s world,” sang James Brown. He might have been describing criticism of the past two CES gadget conventions, in which not a single woman was tapped to deliver the main keynote addresses. The two-time all-dude lineup caught the eye of critics about this time last year, including Twitter CMO Leslie Berland; then-HP CMO and now Facebook global CMO Antonio Lucio; and especially diversity-inclusion organization GenderAvenger (GA).
The pressure may have paid off. For January 2019’s event, CES’s top leadership–which, incidentally, consists entirely of women–is on target to have a well-balanced speaker lineup, both for gender and ethnic heritage. The major corporate keynote lineup currently features two women and two men, one each of European and Asian heritage. And the current list of “featured speakers” highlighting smaller events has a slight majority of women, nearly half being women of color.
“As of this date, and if this gender balance holds steady, that main stage lineup could merit a Silver GA Stamp of Approval,” announced GenderAvenger today. That’s a big switch from earlier this month, when GA founder Gina Glantz slammed a CES plan to boost diversity by encouraging tag-team keynotes with multiple executives of the featured companies.
The outstanding question is whether this time is just a lucky break. There are plenty of impressive women in tech for the smaller addresses and panel discussions. But if CES follows its traditional approach, it will continue to turn over the big keynotes to major companies with big news to announce and big budgets to invest in the event. Not many women hold those leadership slots. For next January’s show, CES was able to turn to AMD CEO Lisa Su and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty. The latter is appearing for the second time in just four CESes. It will start looking awkward if she’s on the bill yet again next year.