This year's debacle at the Consumer Electronics Show involving female-led sex tech company Lora DiCarlo is perhaps the flawless illustration of this problem. But changes to the show itself will make a more visual impact: following controversy last year around a sex toy that won an award at the show only to have it revoked, the group will this year allow for the inclusion of sex tech and will even allow it to win awards, said Karen Chupka, Executive Vice President of CES.
The show was also criticized in 2017 for announcing an all-male lineup of keynote speakers for the second year in a row (two women were added later).
The reasons given by the tech organization for its flip-flopping were unconvincing, and CES' announcement today about new rules aimed at increasing diversity and representation at the annual conference are a response to the backlash they received earlier this year.
For example, less than a third of Google's employees are women and less than a quarter of its tech employees, such as engineers, are female. More than 2,200 companies - 80 percent are small businesses and startups; others are among the world's best-known brands - enjoy the benefits of CTA membership including policy advocacy, market research, technical education, industry promotion, standards development and the fostering of business and strategic relationships.
During a luncheon event in New York City, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) - the trade organization behind the event - announced a variety of new policies, from changes to the dress code to efforts to encourage diversity and inclusivity within the technology industry.
To further promote diversity, CES will also introduce a new "Innovation for All" program, which will feature sessions with senior diversity officials.
Partnerships: The Female Quotient (The FQ) will be the official Equality Partner for CES 2020. It's offering grants and free exhibit space to women and underrepresented entrepreneurs. For the first time it is introducing penalties for those who violate the dress code.
In response to the fiasco, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which runs CES, has chose to allow tech-based sex products on the show floor and for them to be eligible to win awards, as part of the Health & Wellness product category or in the Health & Wellness start-up area.
"CTA is committed to evolving and continuing to create an experience at CES that is inclusive and welcoming for everyone", Ms Chupka said.
"We don't want to see rows and rows of just standard vibrators", Karen Chupka, executive vice president of CES, told U.S. technology news and media network The Verge.
Lora Haddock, founder and CEO of Lora DiCarlo, said the company supports the move and plans to be on the show floor at CES in 2020. "We worked with a number of external advisors and partners to update and improve our existing CES policies". The category will be limited to devices that are innovative and include "new or emerging tech" to qualify, she said.