It’s been a busy few days for the Trump family. While President Donald Trump addressed the nation regarding tensions with Iran, his alleged favourite child, Ivanka Trump, was chosen as this year's keynote speaker for the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES). And her speech, well, made it's own headlines.
Prior to taking the stage to deliver her speech, Trump found herself the subject of some major critique who felt that there were many more qualified women in the tech industry to represent the event.
What became a full-blown controversy actually started in late December when Trump was announced as a keynote speaker at CES. It quickly ignited the Twitter hashtag #boycottCES, which seemed to target Ivanka Trump's existence at the event.
Despite the overwhelming backlash, though, Trump's actual speech didn't incite any noteworthy protesting. Interviewed by the event’s organiser, Consumer Technology Association CEO Gary Shapiro, Trump pitched programs to help blue-collar workers, develop apprenticeships, and invest in science and technology education programs.
She also spoke about her focus on workforce development in relation to her work as presidential adviser and how she acts as co-chair of the National Council for the American Worker alongside commerce secretary Wilbur Ross.
“It’s not only about training for the jobs of the future,” said Trump in her speech. “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 now.” Her speech drew applause in the moment, reports the Washington Post; however, it was, once again following by the silently scathing reaction of the tech industry and Twitterverse.
CES itself bore considerable criticism for hosting Trump. For years, industry and media alike have called on the annual electronics conference to diversify its speaker lineup. Often, the speaker roster is exclusively men. In the last two years, CES has added women as speakers and women in the industry responded by saying it was “a start.”
When there are so many women working and leading innovation in tech, Silicon Valley is scratching their heads at Trump being offered the spot. “There are a lot of women who are doing a lot of work to help women in tech and build products that help women and help children and families,” Sara Mauskopf, the CEO of the child-care start-up Winnie, told the Washington Post. “Ivanka Trump is not one of them."
Shapiro addressed the backlash in an interview with BBC saying that Trump was invited to speak as part of CTA’s increased focus on jobs and the workforce. Critics speculate that Trump got the keynote slot as a way for CES to curry favour with the Trump administration as a way of lobbying against a major trade war with China, reports Variety. In June 2019, CES openly condemned President Trump’s increased tariffs on Chinese imports, calling this and other efforts to impose higher taxes on imports from other countries “shortsighted.”
Also, this isn’t the first time Trump’s qualifications for her position have been called into question or that Silicon Valley has been at odds with the Trump administration. Ivanka Trump serves as a political adviser to her father, and many wonder what relevant experience she has in that field as well.
Many leaders in Silicon Valley strongly oppose the Trump administration’s policies on immigration and climate change among other issues. In response, President Trump regularly attacks the tech industry for promoting left-wing agendas. For that, he has repeatedly issued warnings to companies like Google to “be careful” as they’re “treading on very, very troubled territory.”
However, the same hostility does not seem to exist between Ivanka Trump and the tech industry. In the past year, Trump has appeared at events with chief executives of major tech companies including Apple’s Tim Cook and Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai. Last year, she was awarded the “Internet Freedom Award” by the Internet Association.
CTA spokesperson Jennifer Drogus made a statement following Trump’s speech backing it and policy discussions are a critical part of the conference. “CTA invites officials from every White House – both Republicans and Democrats – to participate in and speak at CES,” she said. Each year, CES hosts upwards of 150 policymakers. “The future of work is a critical policy topic for the technology sector.”
Trump has not formally responded to the backlash, but she did retweet and respond to several supporters thanking them saying, “This is my passion, lifting ALL Americans! We’re getting it done by working together.”