The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), an international trade show for consumer tech and innovation held in Las Vegas once a year, has always served as a proving ground for many innovators and new products. However, last year, it also made headlines for taking back the CES Innovation Award in Robotics from the female sex toys company Lora DiCarlo. CES later reinstated the award after Lora DiCarlo’s founder Lora Haddock DiCarlo vocalised the gender-based discrimination she experienced—with the story going viral across the media. Shortly after, DiCarlo helped re-write the rules to create a safer and more inclusive environment at CES.
This year’s CES started on Monday, 6 January and will finish on Friday. On Tuesday, a specific keynote called ‘The path to the future of work” made waves even before its beginning. Why? Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, had, for some reason, invited Ivanka Trump to join him on stage for a “fireside” chat.
When it was announced that President Trump’s daughter will speak at CES 2020, many wondered why she was invited in the first place. Among them was Lora DiCarlo, who posted an open letter to the tech community questioning why Ivanka Trump was chosen as a speaker and asking for input on who they would like to see take on the prestigious keynote talk next year.
So why exactly did Ivanka Trump speak at CES 2020, and what did she have to share? Is it possible that Ivanka Trump’s appearance at CES was requested by the White House? Shapiro refused to speak about it in an interview with the BBC, but it should be remembered that Ms Trump didn’t come only as the President’s daughter—she came as the advisor to the President of the US, and as co-chair of two governmental advisory boards, including the National Council for the American Worker.
So what did Ms Trump talk about? Despite controversy surrounding her invitation, she managed to get more than a few words in, unlike what happened at the G20 meeting with President Macron, the then UK PM Theresa May and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau this summer, which resulted in a trending #unwantedIvanka.
Ms Trump’s main point was that Americans’ CV data should be stored and updated on their phones as a way to make applying for jobs easier. “Why can’t you have your high school degree verified and on your phone, so an employer doesn’t need to call your high school?” she asked Shapiro. The highly anticipated talk was, to say the least, quite boring—some attendees even said it lacked “drama.”
Screen Shot spoke to Lora Haddock DiCarlo about Ms Trump’s invitation to CES, how it didn’t correlate with last year’s reaction to her product Osé and DiCarlo’s open letter. “I published a letter asking this very question. Why [was Ivanka Trump invited]? I genuinely am curious,” said DiCarlo. When asked about the tech industry’s reaction to her invitation, DiCarlo responded that, “We are still gathering feedback and hope to have a better idea of what the community thinks by the end of the week.”
This year, DiCarlo returned to CES 2020 with a two-part product similar to 2019’s Osé. Baci and Onda, the latest innovations from the brand, were unveiled on the first day of the event and each received the highly-coveted CES Honoree Innovation Award. This marked a major shift from the company’s ban from CES 2019 and proved that DiCarlo’s work from last year resulted in real change. “We became change agents, initiating a critical public conversation about gender equity and creating a safer and more inclusive environment for all CES attendees,” stated DiCarlo.
And yet, CES still seems to stay on the fence when it comes to change. On the one hand, the previously banned sex toys company Lora DiCarlo became one of the biggest winners of this year’s event. But on the other hand, Ivanka Trump was invited for an hour-long keynote, while there are numerous other women with more expertise in the field who are fighting for real change.
When asked about which women she would have picked instead of Ms Trump, DiCarlo said she would have loved to see advertising consultant and founder of the IfWeRanTheWorld and MakeLoveNotPorn companies, Cindy Gallop. Well, who knows, maybe next year? Or maybe for CES 2021 we’ll witness Gary Shapiro having a little chat with Donald Trump himself.