CES, the annual conference event showcasing the latest cutting-edge tech has an ugly reputation of gender bias, sexism, and double standards — similarly to the tech industry as a whole. This week, CES’s male orientated reputation became plainly obvious after a sex toy had its award revoked by the CTA (Consumer Technology Association) for being “immoral, obscene, indecent, profane, or not in keeping with CTA’s image.”
Not only did Lora Dicarlo create a high tech female sex toy, it’s also rooted in sex positivity, inclusion, and tackling female sexuality taboos — something that CES should be promoting, not excluding. But, this isn’t the first time CES showed its true colors.
CES hasn’t learned from its (obvious) mistakes
CES and the CTA has a reputation for not only being male dominated, but also shaping the future, but it appears that future is mainly designed for men, by men. With the lack of female-focused products featured at CES and the exclusion of female founders and keynote speakers, there’s obvious issues with diversity.
According to research by Lora Dicarlo, only 1 out of 100 CES Best of Innovation Award winners were female founded.
It seems that CES and the CTA administration has different rules for companies and products with a typically female customer. At previous CES events, men’s sexual-health products have been featured such as sex robots in the shape of an unrealistically shaped women in 2018 and VR porn sessions which male attendees can make use of in public every year.
At previous CES eventsbooth babes were a staple and were used to float around in high heels and bikinis handing out freebies while giving a perky and well-rehearsed explanation of how a VPN works — something women have been hired to do at CES since the 1960s, at a time when they called “CES guides.”
There are plenty of things wrong with booth babes especially at tech events typically dominated by men. Imagine been a woman in tech navigating a space where women are underrepresented, but when they are represented, they’re being objectified?
Dear @CES, you’re very clearly NOT getting the message. Booth babes were thumbs up for years, but this is “deemed by CTA in their sole discretion to be immoral, obscene, indecent, profane or not in keeping with CTA’s image”?? Seriously WTF. https://t.co/9gwqhVIjjO
— Kate Brodock (@Just_Kate) January 9, 2019
Tech conferences are intimidating enough for young professional women — since it’s a complete sausage fest. However, Gary Shapiro, the CEO of CTA, defended the use of booth babes by claiming it didn’t create a hostile environment for women at CES. Amidst controversy over booth babes, it wasn’t to everybody’s favor that the use of booth babes shouldn’t be used at all, just at least introduce booth boys.
At CES, and many other tech conferences, woman are more likely to be objectified than represented. The Daily Dot reported in 2015 that CES still doesn’t care about women after an attendee saw only one female speaker in the six plus hours of press events she attended over 36 hours — and she spoke for less than two minutes.
CES is still fueling the sexist narrative with their all male lineup of keynote speakers in 2017 and 2018. This year, CES attempted a shot at diversity with their 50/50 split of male and female speakers — which is a good step, but diversity is more than just ticking boxes, it’s about equal treatment and involving new innovative ideas, like empowering sex toys for women, designed by women.