It's not news that women don't come to CES in droves--it's always been this way.
When I bring up the topic, I often get this response from both men and women, sometimes with a shrug: "Women just don't like technology the same way that men do," or "It's like sports; men care about the fiddling with technology. Women just want it to work." The prevailing thinking is that men are from GadgetLand and women are from...somewhere else. And no one seems particularly upset about it.
We should be more upset about it.
I've been talking to my peers and friends about why women don't make a stronger showing at CES, and whether it matters, as I prepare for tonight's first-ever CNET Women In Technology panel, where we'll be discussing this issue with Google's Marissa Mayer, Cisco's Padma Warrior, and Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr and successful entrepreneur.
It matters an incredible amount whether women represent at CES and in the business of technology generally. If we're not writing about the show, meeting with other executives, or speaking to crowds, we don't get a say. We miss out on hallway conversations and the brainstorming sessions. We perpetuate the stereotype that women don't understand or care about technology.
In my day-to-day life, every woman I know under the age of 60 owns and uses technology products, usually with joy and enthusiasm. But here at CES 2012 (and every consumer technology conference I've been to) we are in the minority. Not just the minority, but the vast minority. Look anywhere, from the CES keynote schedule to the line at Starbucks at the convention center, and it's obvious: Most of the women at CES are in marketing--which is fine, but is only one aspect of the technology business--and only a handful have come as business leaders, speakers, or tech journalists. There are exceptions, of course. We have a number of fine journalists and execs at CNET who are women, in fact, but the imbalance is undeniable.
If you've seen Sheryl Sandberg's TED Talk on the topic of women in leadership, you've heard her talk about how women need to step up to the table and be heard. I agree--I think that if we do so in business, we will naturally be more present at tech gatherings like CES.
But we also have to crush the kind of sexism that results in comments like these, left on a CNET Facebook page post about our upcoming Women In Technology panel:
When women do decide to step up in public conversations about technology, we frequently battle condescension and cruelty like the comments you see here. Just today, a commenter left this missive on a fine piece of writing by a female colleague: "None of these things matter at all...what is this female talking about?" I can't make commenters stop making misogynist comments, but I urge women who care about technology to fight back. Don't let sexist comments or assumptions about our understanding of technology stop you from being here--at CES or in the technology community in general. Say what you think, share your opinions, and come join the show.