The biggest announcement thus far at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was from the host itself, Consumer Technical Association. The CTA will invest $10 million in venture firms and funds focused on women, people of color and other underrepresented startups and entrepreneurs.
Why is this important? Because CTA represents the $398 billion U.S. consumer technology industry, which supports more than 15 million U.S. jobs. This is therefore a statement for the future.
A year ago, CES came under fire for lack of representation on the main stage for a notable lack of women and people of color. The criticism was valid, and, to their credit, CTA paid attention to the call out, creating advisory committees to recruit top diverse tech experts across all industries. At this year's event, there were women and or people of color, or as I say "new majority" on stage at almost every session I attended. That is progress, if not perfection.
A More Diverse Future
Certainly, there was still plenty of bias around Vegas this week, and some even I experienced on stage. There was also the viral statement from Lora DiCarlo founder Lora Haddock who say that their CES Innovation Award for a personal massager was rescinded by the organization for, apparently, violating a morality clause and/or not fitting into a product category. It wasn't a good look, given the history of porn tech (yes, was a thing) in past years at the expo space.
There is still work to be done, my friends. What I can say is that many male executives from enterprise companies approached me to say they are thrilled at the number of women professionals they are seeing at CES. However, they came at the topic from a business focus, not a social imperative. (Which is fine with me).
There's Still Work to Be Done
Women are doing eighty percent of consumer purchasing, so marketers want to show their products to them whether from the stage or at the expo floor. Even the Chief Brand Officer of P&G, Marc Pritchard, said on stage that they are laser focused on building, marketing and selling products to women as their top consumers. To note, he said that women demand a marketing with a point of view.
I witnessed a ton of excitement from diverse presenters today. I was proud to host an announcement on the "C" stage about a partnership between Brit + Co, Bumble and my company HelloAlice.com that will encourage millions of women to Be Their Own Boss, or the BYOB Tour, through a joint technology, social media movement and in city trainings. I talked to brilliant, inspiring and innovative "New Majority" founders throughout Eureka Park, including Samantha Snabes, whose company re:3d took home the Techstars Startup Stage Robotics Pitch Competition on Tuesday.
Ruth Chandler Cook got a lot of attention during the AI pre-event track regarding her use of AI to ensure hiring top women in tech fields through her company HireHer. Less obvious but critical were the keynotes with exceptional women leaders such as Ginni Rommetty from IBM and Dr. Lisa Su of AMD.
Change is coming, even though it feels slow. Michelle Morris the Vice President, of Global Marketing Solutions for Facebook said as it relates to diversity in tech, "We have to get better every day. It isn't going to happen overnight." I didn't speak on as single panel this week that didn't have another woman (and I did five).
Next year I hope to look out in the audience at CES and see more women smiling back at me. But, we have to celebrate relentless imperfect progress and you can be part of it through these tips.
"To continue to evolve and grow, the tech industry needs more equal access to venture funding," said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CTA. "Various research reports indicate diverse teams make better decisions and achieve greater profits." Well said sir. Let's keep doing it together!