CES Responds to Accusations of Gender Bias in Lead Speakers: Defends Situation as Reflection of Industry-Wide Problem


AdAge reports that after CES started receiving backlash for appearing to include only men in the keynote addresses listed online, the group that runs the tech conference is describing details of a previously planned “Keynote Panel” that includes at least one prominent female executive. The group, the Consumer Technology Association, has also responded to criticism in a blog post.

The panel, presented by the consultancy MediaLink, will feature A&E Networks president and CEO Nancy Dubuc, Discovery Communications president and CEO David Zaslav and LionTree founder and CEO Aryeh Bourkoff as well as other panelists yet to be announced. It will actually comprise more than one talk: a conversation among MediaLink CEO and chairman Michael Kassan and Zaslav and Bourkoff, followed by a panel moderated by MediaLink Vice Chairman Wenda Harris Millard that will include Dubuc and others.

The panel has been in the works for months, according to Karen Chupka, senior VP of CES and corporate business strategy at the Consumer Technology Association. CES organizers typically parcel out keynote announcements leading up to the January conference, she says.

MediaLink’s CES keynote in past years has included Facebook VP Carolyn Everson, former McDonald’s USA Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl and JP Morgan Chase CMO Kristen Lemkau.

In the CTA’s online response to criticism of its lineup so far, Chupka said keynote speakers must be presidents or CEOs of a large entity “who has name recognition in the industry.”

“As upsetting as it is, there is a limited pool when it comes to women in these positions,” she wrote. “We feel your pain. It bothers us, too. The tech industry and every industry must do better.”

That didn’t satisfy Gina Glantz, co-founder of GenderAvenger, the group whose missive against CES on Nov. 29 struck a nerve.

“There’s not some force outside of them setting the criteria,” Glantz says. “They set the criteria, and if its result is all white men, then they need to rethink their criteria to ensure they have innovative, smart, different … perspectives on their stage of women and of people of color.”


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