Just before Christmas, major tech conference CES, organized by the Consumer Technology Association, announced that of all people, Ivanka Trump would be appearing on the keynote stage with CES CEO Gary Shapiro at the 2020 CES expo. Shapiro was quoted in the press release as saying, “As a business leader and entrepreneur, Ivanka Trump is an advocate for creating family-sustaining jobs through workforce development, education and skills training.” And while none of those words are true when strung together into that sentence, the real issue that people across the technology industry had was: Why Ivanka Trump? She’s barely qualified to speak at a dinner party.
Tech commentator Rachel Sklar wrote on Twitter that, “This is a terrible choice on so many levels but also - what an insult to the YEARS AND YEARS of protesting how few women were invited to keynote & being told it was a pipeline problem while similarly-situated men were elevated. There are so many great, qualified women. Shame.” #BoycotCES began to trend and Shapiro and the CES began doing damage control.
Shapiro defended his organization’s decision in an interview with the BBC, saying that the CES has always gone out to White House administrations looking for people to come and talk at the trade show, pointing out that Ivanka Trump “co-chairs the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, whose members include companies like Apple, Walmart and IBM.” Of course, in that same interview, Shapiro wouldn’t explain the details of how Ivanka was chosen, or how Trump’s transportation secretary—and wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—Ellen Chao came to be two of the only women to receive these highly sought-after platforms in the tech industry’s largest trade show.
As Cindy Chin—founder of Women on the Block, a female tech industry empowerment organization—told the Guardian, “There needs to be more systematic representation of speakers across the board and not just for keynotes. It would be better if the background of the keynote speaker actually fit the industry it is serving and inspirational rather than talking heads and political.”
Shapiro will interview Ivanka Trump on Jan. 7, where she will share more of the famous Trump family wisdom that amounts to a two-word mantra: be corrupt.