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DEBRA J. SAUNDERS: The tech industry and diversity of thought

WASHINGTON — When the Consumer Technology Association announced that Ivanka Trump, elder daughter and adviser to President Donald Trump, would be a keynote speaker at CES 2020, some of the very people who had been pushing for more female speakers, and more diversity in general, at the country’s premier tech confab actually protested.

Some, such as Forbes’ Carolina Milanesi, argued that Trump was a bad choice because she lacked tech credentials. “There are many more women who are in tech and are entrepreneurs who could run circles around Trump on how technology will impact the future of work,” Milanesi wrote.

On social media others were more honest: They maintained that the first daughter shouldn’t have a place on the stage because, well, she is a Trump — and a distaff Trump, which made for some rather crude and misogynistic nicknames typed by anonymous scolds.

Yes, as critics point out, Ivanka Trump would not be on the stage if she were not the president’s daughter. Her job exists because of nepotism.

But Ivanka Trump works without cashing a paycheck. (I’ll bet former veep Joe Biden wishes he could say the same about his son Hunter’s tenure at Ukrainian energy company Burisma.)

And rather than designing a portfolio that starts with accessories or branding — where she cut her teeth in the private sector — Ivanka Trump has waded into some of the least glamorous corners of government policy and often appears at events with the most soporific member of the Trump cabinet, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

On the stage Tuesday with Gary Shapiro, the head of the CTA, which puts on the Las Vegas convention, Ivanka Trump did not talk like the airhead fashionista her detractors see.

To the contrary, the 38-year-old talked about her lack of sympathy for employers who lay off workers and then complain that they don’t have enough skilled workers. They should have taken the time to “reskill” those workers, she argued. She also advocated for employment opportunities for former prisoner inmates and the need to not over-peddle four-year college as the ticket to career success.

Her workforce portfolio also puts Ivanka Trump shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Salesforce co-CEO Marc Benioff — to whom she gave a shoutout Tuesday — and Apple CEO Tim Cook, whose firms have signed the White House Pledge to American Workers. Not a bad look for the Trump re-election campaign, even if this conservative misses the days when the right derided “crony capitalism.”

There’s another 2020 angle here. POTUS frequently says that he is a man of America’s “forgotten” workers — and there’s his raised-in-Manhattan daughter championing those who don’t have college educations.

I think it drives Trump haters crazy that Ivanka has embraced the lunchbox workforce and the wonky jargon that surrounds training issues, rather than voguing like the Barbie doll wannabe they want her to be.

That’s why they didn’t want to her speak at CES 2020. They didn’t want other people to see it.

This talk about Ivanka Trump lacking credentials — it’s cheap perfume to hide the stench of left-wing intolerance in the tech industry. Just ask Brendan Eich, the one-time Mozilla CEO who was forced to resign in 2014 after it was learned that he had donated $1,000 to a 2008 California ballot measure to limit marriage to one man and one woman. Californians voted for the measure, by the way. But six years later the tech world found Eich’s past opposition to same-sex marriage a corporate capital offense.

The tech world makes a lot of noise about promoting diversity, but it doesn’t apply to diversity of thought.

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

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