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CES 2020 gets a dress code, sex toys, and more diversity programming

The Consumer Technology Association, which organizes the annual CES, is putting in measures to improve diversity and ensure that people are fully clothed on the event floor.

CES 2020 gets a dress code, sex toys, and more diversity programming
[Photo: Robyn Beck/Getty Images]

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), organizer of the massive annual gadgetfest CES, wants you to know that it’s heard the criticism about the show’s lack of diversity and sexism loud and clear.

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To that end, it is working hard to implement initiatives aimed at correcting the imbalances and issues. The new policy updates, partnerships, and programming tracks were revealed at a press lunch in New York City.

“CTA is committed to evolving and continuing to create an experience at CES that is inclusive and welcoming for everyone,” said Karen Chupka, the CTA executive VP who runs the show. “We worked with a number of external advisers and partners to update and improve our existing CES policies.”

Chupka stressed that CES was a place people from all over the world come to do business. And with over 4,500 companies having multiple meetings daily, the CTA recognized that it needed to put guidelines in place for appropriate attire. The official dress code now states, “Booth personnel may not wear clothing that is sexually revealing or that could be interpreted as undergarments. Clothing that reveals an excess of bare skin, or body-conforming clothing that hugs genitalia must not be worn. These guidelines are applicable to all booth staff, regardless of gender. In addition, the existing CES ban on pornography will be strictly enforced with no exceptions for CES 2020.”

She was quick to point out that the term “booth babes” was unfair because they are people who are working hard to represent a company or brand. However, Chupka did say that articles of clothing such as bikini tops wouldn’t be appropriate at the office and therefore aren’t appropriate for the show floor.

In an effort to boost representation of women and minorities, CTA will be partnering with the Female Quotient (The FQ) as the event’s official Equality Partner for CES 2020. The FQ Lounge, which is a part of such events as the World Economic Forum, will serve as “the unplugged space for panel conversations to advance equality.”

A new, curated “Innovation for All” track will take place each day on the CTA Stage, as well as on the CTA Startup Stage in Eureka Park, and will include sessions with senior diversity officials on the business case for diversity. CTA’s Diversity and Inclusion team will also curate a diversity roundtable and reception at CES. Rounding out the programming is Faces of Innovation: Entrepreneurs Edition, a startup program that will offer women and underrepresented entrepreneurs the opportunity to exhibit in the Eureka Park pavilion through a grant and free exhibit space.

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On the heels of the blowback CES got for awarding, then rescinding, and then re-awarding a robotic sex toy this year, the CTA will also open the health and wellness product category to tech-based sexual products for CES 2020. The reason CTA originally stated for taking away the award it originally granted to the Ose personal massager was that it didn’t “fit into any of our existing product categories and should not have been accepted for the Innovation Awards Program.”

Chupka said that this, like many other new initiatives, will be on a one-year trial basis. “Products must be innovative and include new or emerging tech to qualify,” according to the CTA. When pressed for details, Chupka stressed again that the products should be innovative. “We don’t want to see rows and rows of vibrators,” she said.

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About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.

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