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CES 2016: The Women's Report

Time was, not too long go, where the only advantage of being a woman at CES was a short line at the bathroom. As technology has become life’s sidekick and as CES has morphed from an electronics show to a show that celebrates innovation, all that has changed.

This year women are continuing to make an impact in helping to shape the world of technology. Keynotes from GM’s Mary Barra and IBM’s Ginni Rometty, speakers including Mary Lou Jepsen of Oculus Rift, Megan Smith, the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, and Amy Wilkinson speaking on her new book, The Creators Code, were just a few of the major events.

Karen Chupka, senior vice president of CES and Corporate Business Strategy, recalls the beginning of a concerted effort to address women in the industry. “We had a program called “Technology is a Girl’s Best Friend” around 2004,” says Chupka. “We all loved tech and felt that we weren’t the only women who did. It led us to conduct a survey that asked women if they would rather have an HDTV or a one carat diamond ring (both similarly priced at the time) and the HDTV won!”

Shelly Zalis of The Girl’s Lounge is intent on making sure that women have a strong foothold at CES. The Girl’s Lounge, held in a penthouse suite at the Encore for the past three years at CES, invited women executives to take a break from the hubbub of the show floor and let their hair down in an enclave surrounded by women in tech. Zalis, a tech entrepreneur, says the idea of the Girl’s Lounge came to her the year that she looked for female friends to head to CES with her. She had her epiphany when she found that tech companies really wanted to hear what was on their minds. Today she sponsors 37 lounges each year across 10 different conferences, all with the theme of connecting, collaborating and cultivating a sense of social responsibility for women.

This year’s Lounge visitors met Amy Purdy, who became a professional snowboarder despite losing both her legs to meningitis, toured the show floor on a guided tour with Megan Smith, the U.S. CTO, and experienced new wearables in the lounge.

Carol Campbell, a Napco publishing executive hosted Women in CE, an organization that promotes the women in the consumer technology field through networking and professional growth. This year they were at Planet Hollywood awarding the CE Legacy Awards.

Andrea Smith, a veteran of CES, first at ABC News and then Mashable, is the producer of MommyTech TV, which looked at the CES exhibit floor from a woman’s POV. Smith saw the Internet of Things and smart home technology as being this year’s life-changing technology for women. “Once all these smart devices start talking to and working with each other, women can take a step back and tend to the things that matter most to them like family and friends,” says Smith. “Being able to start your slow cooker dinner from your smartphone or know when your kids are home from school via the smart lock, means there’s less to worry about and more time and energy to focus on the important stuff.”

Jenna Blaha, tech editor at Marie Claire was at the BeautyTech Showcase explaining to women how to use technology to look their best. Blaha says that Marie Claire readers are looking for technology coverage in the magazine. In the early days, she says, tech was a separate section in the magazine. Today tech is an organic part of the editorial coverage woven into shopping, fashion, beauty and entertainment.

Rachel Rothman aka @GHGadgetGirl, the technical and engineering director of Good Housekeeping, delivered her take on the hottest new products for today’s connected woman when she moderated panels at the Baby and Beauty Showcase.

Robin Raskin, Living in Digital Times