The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is one of the most recognizable technology showcases in the world, drawing over 100,000 people to the city of Las Vegas, NV each year. Yet, despite its growth and success, the event has consistently struggled with diversity within its mainstage speaker slots. This year, like most years, will include 7 male speakers, six of which are white and one Asian. While not the worst ever, it does show a glowing weakness within the events structure. The reason for the consistently low numbers are their criteria for the mainstage speaking slots. Apparently, mainstage speakers must come from high positions at established companies (cutting significantly into diversity within their potential spear slots).
According to Redcode Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the parent company of the CES, “laid the blame at the feet of the industry, chiding companies to failing to promote women into executive roles that would qualify them for a keynote slot. “As upsetting as it is, there is a limited pool when it comes to women in these positions,” CTA’s Senior Vice President Karen Chupka wrote. “We feel your pain. It bothers us, too. The tech industry and every industry must do better.””
As true as this point is, it doesn’t help that the criteria to speak on the mainstage is so strict. CES is about innovation, and only allowing top level executives at established corporations to speak on innovation isn’t very innovative if you think about it. How and if CES will ever change this remains to be seen, but it would be nice to consistently hear from a diverse group of individuals discuss new technology at a high level. We will see where this goes, but for now, the 50th anniversary in terms of ethnic speaker aesthetics looks much like its first.