Ivanka's keynote, criticized online beforehand, focused on teaching blue collar employees new tech skills to help them keep up in the workforce

By Sean Neumann
January 10, 2020 09:30 AM

CES is one of the biggest tech conferences in the world and sees major annual involvement from companies like Sony, Samsung and HP — but one of the biggest (and most divisive) announcements this year was that Ivanka Trump would give a keynote speech.

President Donald Trump‘s eldest daughter and a senior aide, Ivanka has focused on less polarizing policies than her father. She has become one of the government’s faces on workforce and family economic issues.

But that has not separated her from the daily criticism of the president. Detractors routinely accuse her of hypocrisy, pointing to her insistence that she does not always agree with her dad but continues to work in the White House while sharing any differing opinions with him privately.

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Her Tuesday speech at CES was yet another example of how the Trump name — which the president successfully turned into an anti-immigration firebrand — now almost automatically injects politics into any situation.

Ivanka’s keynote focused on teaching blue collar employees new tech skills to help them keep up in the workforce, The Washington Post reported. She is the co-chair of the National Council for the American Worker.

“Ivanka is not a woman in tech,” video game developer and Democratic congressional candidate Brianna Wu tweeted on Sunday, along with a link to an op-ed criticizing the decision.

Wu wrote that Ivanka, 38, “has no background. It’s a lazy attempt to emulate diversity – but like all emulation it’s not quite the real thing.”

“She would not be welcomed in women in tech circles because her politics harm everything we fight against in our careers. #CES should be ashamed of itself,” Wu tweeted.

“There are thousands of qualified women working at major companies that could deliver a keynote,” she wrote, adding, “Ivanka is not one of us.”

Ivanka Trump at the 2020 CES conference on Tuesday
Ross D Franklin/AP/Shutterstock
Ivanka Trump (right) at the 2020 CES tech conference in Las Vegas
Ross D Franklin/AP/Shutterstock

CES has come under fire in recent years for its lack of women represented in keynotes, including back-to-back years in 2016 and 2017 where the conference didn’t host a single woman to give a speech, according to The Guardian.

The conference has also been criticized for featuring provocatively dressed women at company booths to draw attention among the mostly male crowd.

Ivanka’s CES keynote was reportedly met with some applause.

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“It’s not only about training for the jobs of the future,” she said Tuesday, according to the Post. “People need to be thinking about investing in their current workforce so they can enable those people to do their same job using different equipment tomorrow.”

Online, however, her remarks drew a boycott.

“It is insulting, given the sheer number of brilliant women in consumer electronics, that a woman of VERY limited business experience, NONE in CE, is chosen by the CEA as a keynote speaker, simply because she’s the President’s daughter,” one Twitter user wrote ahead of the conference. “Are there not enough women in CE to justify having a woman actually involved in tech to have a voice?”

CES organizer Gary Shapiro defended the decision to have Ivanka speak, according to the BBC.

“There’s a lot of focus on jobs of the future, and certainly the keynote that I’ll be doing with Ivanka Trump will be focusing on … how industry is working with government on this very important issue,” he said.

But that didn’t stop some attendees from saying they would avoid this year’s conference.

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“I haven’t missed a CES in almost 20 years, but I’m skipping this one,” another Twitter user said. “This was not a choice of relevancy, it was a political choice. I’m saying NO to Trump.”