CTA Senior VP Karen Chupka Defends Gender Imbalance At CES. We're Not Buying It.

Karen Chupka, Senior VP CES & Corporate Business Strategy at Consumer Technology Association (CTA), wrote a response after our recent criticism of CES 2018 for not having any women speakers on their keynote stage. Not surprisingly, with a CES (Consumer Electronics Show) history of leaving women out of the spotlight, her excuses fall short in a number of key areas.

Chupka's defense, "Response about speaker diversity at CES," is broken down in grey followed by our annotated points in blue below:

For more than 50 years, CES has been a launch pad for brands and startups. CES is owned and produced by the Consumer Technology Association, our staff is two-thirds female, we win awards for being a family friendly place to work, and fun fact: the CES executive team is run entirely by women.
Perfect. You know and understand the value of women in leadership positions, which oddly enough is exactly what keynote speakers are at large conferences — leaders.
We champion diversity of all types – gender, ethnicity, thought and beyond – and our show reflects that value. We’re proud of our record in welcoming a diversity of speakers to the CES keynote stage including General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty and Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer. In the last eleven years, we’ve had 21 keynote spots held by women.
And yet in the last 2 years, at the very height of backlash against male-dominated tech conferences, you have featured ZERO women on the main stage as keynoters. (Also, may we refer you to Excuse #4 on our list of top 10 excuses for the absence of women at conferences.)
But, the keynote stage is just one CES platform. We had roughly 275 female speakers (including two all-female panels) this past January and expect similar numbers for CES 2018. We invite top business leaders every year and recognize that corporate timing, strategy, investments and availability all have to align to make this work. Companies make keynoting decisions based on having announcements that coincide with CES.
There is a big difference between sharing the stage as a panelist in one of multiple competing sessions and being a keynote on the main stage in front of the largest audience possible.
To keynote at CES, the speaker must head (president/CEO level) 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. We feel your pain. It bothers us, too. The tech industry and every industry must do better.
Frankly, we are not interested in sharing the pain of gender imbalance. We are about fixing it. You set the criteria and can change the criteria, especially if it results in only men meeting it. Perhaps it’s time to consider the fact that, according to your own research, women account for more than half of their household’s total consumer electronics spending. That means that roughly 61% of all consumer electronics purchases are either made by women or influenced by them. A woman keynoter would bring an awfully important perspective to the attendees. (See Excuse #6.)
But that doesn’t mean we don’t have incredibly strong women in powerful positions at CES. Female business leaders are critical to the success of our show and the entire tech sector, and their participation at CES extends beyond the keynote stage to our conference sessions and entrepreneurs exhibiting across the show floor. These women are tech leaders and deserve the spotlight. They deserve attention. They are experts in their field.
It’s time to put some of those experts on the main stage. Otherwise, their voices are relegated to smaller venues with fewer attendees rather than having access to the full impact of the main stage.
We are still securing speakers at all levels for CES 2018, but the current program features high-profile women speakers in technology, entertainment and business.
Oh, good. So you’ll be featuring them in upcoming promotional materials as well?
We will continue to spotlight diversity at the show and are eager to release more announcements to our speaker lineup. In the meantime, we encourage you to dig deeper into CES programming and learn from the women beyond the keynote stage.
The argument is not that you don’t have women speakers at all, it’s that we have to “dig deeper” to find them. In other words, they are “on the outskirts” (pun intended). (Also, see Excuse #5.)
There are 42 female founders, waiting to see you in our startup area called Eureka Park this January, and that is only one section of the show. In addition to these founders, I know many driven women who are successful leaders in the tech industry. Many participate on the CTA board and our membership committees and councils.
How about having one of those board members keynote? (See Excuse #7.)
Please look at CES, CTA and the tech sector in their entirety. There are smart and talented women. Write about them, support them, promote them and build them up. Together we can all make a difference. Let’s get a new conversation going #WomenInTech.

Write about women, support them, promote them, build them up, and FEATURE WOMEN ON THE MOST IMPORTANT STAGE at “the world's gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies.”

Women’s voices, and leadership, count.


There are ZERO #CES2018 women keynotes again. Sadly, @CTATech defends its ongoing history of gender imbalance at @CES. Here is @GenderAvenger's response. #GenderAvenger https://www.genderavenger.com/blog/cta-senior-vp-karen-chupka-gender-imbalance-ces