CES, the world’s largest technology show, started the year off in Las Vegas earlier this month, highlighting the latest innovations and breakthrough technologies. Despite introducing the world to inventions that turn sunlight and air into clean water, eliminate language barriers, and make traffic fatalities a thing of the past, CES faced criticism for something you might not expect.
A fringe feminist outfit that calls itself GenderAvenger declared war on CES for having no women featured among the convention’s top speaking slots. The group encouraged its paltry number of social media followers to attack CES on Twitter for its lack of women speakers on the mainstage and for showcasing too few female voices overall.
Perhaps GenderAvenger failed to notice that five of the 21 CES keynote speakers were women, and that the event featured 242 female speakers.
While there is certainly work to be done, the reality is the tech industry offers one of the most level playing fields for women and all minorities anywhere — and CES does a respectable job of reflecting that.
A 2016 salary survey of more than 16,000 tech professionals determined that there is no gender pay gap in tech industry jobs, when comparing workers of equal levels of education, years of technical experience, and job title.
This year’s CES featured a long list of accomplished and inspirational women. One featured speaker was Angela Ruggiero, the CEO and co-founder of Sports Innovation Lab. Ruggiero, who holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and helped lead the effort to bring the Olympics back to Los Angeles.
CES also showcased the female-led team focused on using Watson, IBM’s breakthrough artificial intelligence computing system, to transform the business world.
During its keynote talk, Ford Motor Company featured Marcy Klevorn, the company’s executive vice president and president of mobility. Klevorn spoke about how Ford’s automated driving platform would ease traffic congestion and speed up the transportation of people and goods.
The CEO of the World Surf League, the president of Sleep Number, the CEO of Williams-Sonoma, the head of industry for Facebook’s entertainment division, the founder of PopSugar, the CEO of Evidation Health, and the senior vice president and general manager of Warner Bros. Entertainment Group were among the female innovators with speaking slots at CES.
Additionally, some of the most exciting products featured at CES are intended to engage girls in technology at an early age. These games and toys, which teach coding and robotics to elementary and middle school-aged girls, are aimed at increasing the number of women in STEM-related professions.
With all the good news going on for women in the tech industry, why would GenderAvenger twist the truth to attack CES? Because the group figures that by raising a ruckus — legitimately or not — at an event with nearly 200,000 attendees and worldwide media coverage, it can get some attention. GenderAvenger is a tiny group of extremists who show up places where they have no business to spew off-base and ill-informed craziness in a hopeless quest of appearing relevant. The organization lacks infrastructure and is run by a progressive political operative and union lackey named Gina Glatz, who proudly describes herself as a “shit stirrer” on the group’s website.
Women are underrepresented at CES and in the tech industry in general, and more can and should be done to address the issue. But GenderAvenger’s attacks on one of the most progressive, inclusive industries are misplaced.
Not only does the tech industry provide employment opportunities for women not available in many other fields, but the innovations produced by tech companies have empowered women around the world. If GenderAvenger is truly concerned about the plight of women, there are better ways of promoting change than disparaging the very industry that gives a voice to the oppressed, provides a worldwide marketplace to the poor, delivers education to the desperate and offers hope to the hopeless.
Drew Johnson is a CES attendee, is a tech policy expert at the National Center for Public Policy Research and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.
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