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Ivanka Trump speaker invitation rankles some at CES 2020

Updated January 6, 2020 - 5:56 pm

WASHINGTON — After years of pushing for more female speakers to headline events at tech summits, some advocates are saying that CES 2020 should not have picked Ivanka Trump, senior adviser and elder daughter of President Donald Trump, as a keynote speaker.

“Ivanka Trump Keynoting At CES Is All That Is Wrong For Women In Tech,” ran the headline for a Carolina Milanesi piece on Forbes.com.

Media blogger Rachel Sklar called the Ivanka Trump pick “an insult,” adding, “There are so many great, qualified women. Shame.”

There’s even a hashtag #BoycottCES2020 to protest Trump’s to participation in a 2 p.m. panel Tuesday .

“It’s totally counter-productive for what they’re claiming they want achieved,” White House spokeswoman Jessica Ditto told the Review-Journal of critics’ decision to bash a female speaker.

Tuesday’s other keynote speakers are Samsung President Hyun-Suk Kim, Mercedes Benz head Ola Källenius, Consumer Technology Association Executive Vice President Karen Chupka, Delta CEO Ed Bastian, Salesforce co-CEO Marc Benioff, Medialink CEO Michael E. Kassan and Unilever CEO Alan Jope.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who was a CES 2019 headliner, will speak to the confab Wednesday.

No women in past years

CES included no women headliners in its 2017 and 2018 lineups, according to the group Gender Avenger, which slammed the consumer show for featuring too many “he-notes.”

Last month, before CES announced Ivanka Trump would be a keynoter, the group gave CES 2020 a “bronze medal” for a featured speakers list that was 42 percent male, 58 percent female and 39 percent women of color.

Asked about his decision to invite Trump during a BBC interview Sunday, Gary Shapiro, CEO and president of the Consumer Technology Association, responded: “There’s a lot of focus on jobs of the future, and certainly the keynote that I’ll be doing with Ivanka Trump” will focus on “how industry is working with government on this very important issue.”

Shapiro added that Ivanka Trump co-chairs the American Workforce Advisory Board, whose members include companies like Apple, Walmart and IBM, as well as the National Council for the American Worker, a partnership with pledges from more than 300 companies to create more than 12 million new training opportunities for students and workers over five years.

Shapiro will share the CES stage with Trump for a “fireside chat” in which the two will discuss how the administration is working with employers on programs to retrain workers, create apprenticeships and develop K-12 science, engineering, technology and math education programs.

A top advisor to the president who works without collecting a government paycheck, Ivanka Trump has developed a portfolio that concentrates on education, economic empowerment of women, job creation and workforce development.

In June, she spoke at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2019 in The Hague. Later that month, she and husband Jared Kushner crossed into the North Korea-South Korea DMZ. That appearance also was not without controversy.

No tech experience?

Cindy Chin, chief executive of CLC Advisors and founder of Women on the Block, is among critics who have slammed CES for booking mostly male speakers, especially for top speaking slots.

Chin told the Review-Journal that female tech leaders have blanched at Trump’s invitation, not so much because of their politics, but because Trump lacks tech sector experience and “people want to see someone who is in the industry.”

Chin also offered that Ivanka Trump is likely to be a “polarizing” speaker.

“This is a feckless stunt and yet another dumb one from the leaders who once brought you tech in pink display for the ladies,” Recode editor Kara Swisher reacted on Twitter. “The event lost the narrative long ago and I no longer attend as it’s just a loud and irksome trade show. I expect the keynote to be as pointless as it sounds.”

Trump campaign National Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany had a different take.

“In an increasingly tech-driven economy, Senior Adviser Ivanka Trump has consistently led in modernizing the American workforce through innovative apprenticeships and training programs, and she has been a strong advocate for women in STEM,” she told the Review-Journal.

According to a statement attributed to an unnamed Consumer Technology Association spokesperson, “policy discussions are a critical part of the CES program, and we host over 150 policymakers. CTA invites officials from every White House — both Republicans and Democrats — to participate in and speak at CES.”

Shapiro has chimed in on partisan politics in the past. In a 2015 piece posted on Medium, Shapiro condemned candidate Donald Trump for comments on Hispanic immigrants which he deemed “not only racist but disgusting.”

“As for me, I will not hold meetings at or visit any Trump property or even watch any Trump TV show until he drops out of the presidential race and apologizes to those he slandered,” Shapiro wrote.

Contact Debra J. Saunders on dsaunders@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

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