CTA today announced a series of initiatives to expand the diversity and inclusion at CES and in the consumer technology industry at large, including its first investments in venture companies led by and supporting firms led by women and people of color, as well as new inclusive initiatives at CES. CTA is hoping to reverse a disturbing trend; according to a report from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the tech industry employs a smaller share of African-Americans, Hispanics and women than the rest of the private sector.
One way CTA hopes to increase inclusion is to foster a friendlier atmosphere, for women at CES in particular, by more definitively defining its CES dress code to create a more business-appropriate environment on the CES show floor. Codifying what had been informal dos and mostly don'ts formulated over the last decade or so, the new guidelines note that "booth personnel may not wear clothing that is sexually revealing or that could be interpreted as undergarments" or clothing that "reveals an excess of bare skin, or body-conforming clothing that hugs genitalia" and will be applied "regardless of gender." Special dispensations will be considered for booths featuring demonstrations of exercise and fitness equipment, or other products that require booth personnel to wear special clothing.
Code violators will get a warning and a request for booth personnel to change their clothing; repeat offenders could be punished by the loss of priority points, used to determine booth location at future shows.
While the dress code applies only to the CES show floor, since that's the only venue CTA can directly control, CTA hopes exhibitors follow the code's spirit of inclusion at off-campus and after-show events. "We have the ability to determine who we do business with and who we partner with," noted Karen Chupka, CTA's EVP of CES.
The impact of this updated dress code policy is likely to expand beyond CES since CES is one of the largest, and arguably the most well-known and influential, of all trade shows in the U.S., and, according to CTA VP of marketing Jean Foster, "the largest and most influential tech show on the planet."
Policing clothing, however, will not be CTA's primary inclusion effort at CES 2020 and beyond. For instance, Chupka announced a partnership with The Female Quotient, named the official Equality Partner at CES. CTA will work with The Female Quotient founder Shelley Zalis and her team to advance gender equality at the show and throughout the industry. One visible effort at CES 2020 will be the FQ Lounge, an "unplugged space for panel conversations to advance equality," according to Zalis.
Also coming to CES next year will be a new, curated Innovation for All track, with panel discussions taking place in the CTA Stage in the Grand Lobby outside Central Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
In addition at CES 2020, CTA will sponsor a full version of its Faces of Innovation: Entrepreneurs Edition, which had been a pilot program. Under the initiative, CTA will offer women and under-represented entrepreneurs grants for CES expenses and travel along with free exhibit space at Eureka Park.
After controversially revoking an Innovations Award for a robotic sensual massager at CES 2019, CTA will add a new Sex Tech product category as part of both the Sands and Eureka Park Health & Wellness sections on a one-year trial basis. CTA says these products must be "innovative and include new or emerging tech to qualify." Only two companies have qualified thus far, but Chupka expects the roster to grow once word gets out.
CTA Inclusion Investments
But CTA's inclusion primary efforts are directed at creating a more diverse community of technology companies and employees. At CES 2019, CTA announced the formation of a $10 million fund to invest in venture firms and funds led by women, people of color supplying capital to companies led by women, people of color or other under-represented start-ups and entrepreneurs. Just announced are first two recipients: Harlem Capital Partners and SoGal Ventures.
The New York-based Harlem Capital Partners is a minority-owned early-stage venture capital firm focused on investing in 1,000 diverse company founders over the next 20 years. SoGal is the first female-led millennial venture capital firm that invests in early-stage companies with diverse founding teams in the U.S. and Asia.
According to Elizabeth Galbut, SoGal founding partner, less than 2 percent of venture capital in 2018 has been raised by all-women teams, and 98.9 percent of all investment money is managed by white men.
"We want to lead by example," explained Tiffany Moore, CTA's SVP for political and industry affairs. "We don't want to miss out on the next great innovation because a company led by women or people of color couldn't get funding. CTA represents the trade, and we want to try to inject diversity where we can. We're committed to reflect the work force we want to see."
Increased inclusion and diversity make complete business sense according to Foster, and is not just political correctness. "Research has proven that diversity allows companies to make better decisions and results in improved financial outcomes," Foster said.
Moore would not detail the level of investment CTA made in each of these two firms, but expects all such investments will result in returns that can be plowed back into the fund for further investment. While CTA's initial involvement in the firms in which it invests are financial, it will also serve in an advisory capacity, offering financial, management and marketing expertise along with mentoring and often-overlooked emotional support for entrepreneurs as well.
Moore also cited a number of efforts CTA is undertaking to expand inclusion of women and people of color, including partnering with programs to "build and supply the STEM K-12 pipeline" which include CTA's Future Innovators program in Las Vegas' public schools that enables students to pitch entrepreneurial ideas and a STEM-promotion partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington, creating initiatives with organizations that focus on women and diverse communities in tech, and working with member companies to highlight best practices that develop and support a more diverse and inclusive industry.