CES 2019: gender equity and data privacy - Activate World

CES 2019: gender equity and data privacy


CES 2019, the annual consumer-electronics show in Las Vegas, is drawing media attention for two unrelated topics: greater gender equity for keynote speakers and Apple’s message on data privacy. The tech event billed as the “Global Stage for Innovation” has expanded to include all major and emerging industries with attendance topping 182,000 for the past two years.

In late 2017, CES announced an all-male lineup of keynote speakers for the second year in a row. Although it later added two female keynoters, the event’s “boy’s club” reputation continued. Women did speak at CES 2018 in panels and conference sessions, but the keynote slots are the only ones that garner national and global media attention.  

Activists highlighted the absence of high-profile women speakers at CES 2018. This included GenderAvenger co-founder Gina Glantz, developer of the GenderAvenger app that enables individuals to identify bad behavior and publicize it through social media. Prior to CES 2018, Glantz posted an action alert on the GenderAvenger blog with the title, “The Keynote Speakers at CES 2018 Are All Men.” Comments on social media included: for a show marketed as “the world’s gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies,” it sure seems like “for all” really means “for all men.”

This year, four of the nine current keynoters are women including IBM CEO Ginni Rometty; Lisa Su, CEO of chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices; US Transportation Security Elaine Chao, and CES Executive Vice President Karen Chupka.GenderAvenger recently sent CES organizers a congratulatory letter and awarded the show a “Gold Stamp of Approval” for a roster of keynote and “featured” speakers that it says is 45 percent women — 60 percent of them women of color. The entire featured speaker list is currently half female, although the exact percentage won’t be known until after the event.

Separately at CES 2019, Apple posted a huge advertisement on 13 floors of a hotel overlooking the Las Vegas Convention Center. The message says “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone” with the URL to Apple’s privacy website. Apple doesn’t usually have a major presence at CES but is taking advantage of the fact that both Google and Amazon who are expected to dominate the event this year have come under scrutiny for their handling of customer data.  

Apple is a vocal defender of consumers’ data privacy in products across multiple industries. CEO Tim Cook has called privacy a “human right” and a “civil liberty.” Apple’s message is essentially: we are not trying to sell your data, while Amazon and Google use your data – sometimes anonymously – to try and sell you products. 

The growth of voice-activated digital assistants has given these companies a stake in the products that come out of CES as they compete for market dominance. With more than a quarter of American adults expected to embrace the technology in the next year, digital assistant compatibility in new technologies is a huge market.


  • According to the New York Post, “It’s a significant change for CES, which like most tech conferences remains disproportionately male, just like the industry it serves. Even absent the robot dogs, sci-fi-worthy gadgets and “booth babes” CES has been known for, you could readily peg it as a technology show from the bathroom lines alone — where men shift uncomfortably as they wait their turn while women waltz right in.”
  • AMD’s Dr. Lisa Su will discuss the diverse applications of high-performance computing, from solving the world’s toughest problems to the future of gaming, entertainment and virtual reality. 
  • Amazon has about 32% of the smart speaker market, while Google’s share is 30%. According to data through Q3 2018, Apple isn’t even a major player.

Quests and Actions (Q&A)

  • How can CES organizers do more to frame keynotes in ways that increase the chances for gender and cultural diversity? What are some examples?
  • If the goal for keynotes is to get important people who are provocative, interesting, and diverse, is being a CEO announcing a new product or direction the wrong criteria?
  • While Apple’s own apps and servers are private and encrypted, it cannot ensure the security of other apps on iPhones that share your data. Is Apple really saying it treats consumer data with more respect than its competitors? Is privacy a product differentiator? 

Sources:  CNBC, Fast Company, Fortune, New York PostTriplePundit

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