Ivanka Trump’s CES talk goes off without a hitch, despite controversy

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LAS VEGAS — She came. She spoke. And the tech world behaved.

Ivanka Trump was greeted with polite applause despite some bruising words in the days leading up to Tuesday’s keynote presentation on the future of work at CES with Consumer Technology Association Chief Executive Gary Shapiro.

“There really is this blue-collar boom in the United States,” Trump said. “But there is a technology literacy required.”

The president’s daughter and adviser went through the paces — and hit on all the scripted talking points — on White House policies that channel innovation into net-jobs creation for those in America’s heartland. She praised the Trump administration’s moves on tax cuts, deregulation, STEM education, workforce development and apprenticeship programs. At one point, she singled out the support of Salesforce.com Inc. CRM, +1.47%  CEO Marc Benioff, who was in attendance.

It was the type of dry policy session that might draw a couple of hundred folks and a handful of press at one of CES’s myriad meeting rooms. But an hour before Trump’s talk, some 200 media members lined up outside the ballroom, which holds 2,500 people. The ballroom filled up quickly, and several hundred more watched from overflow rooms. Meanwhile, a phalanx of police officers and bomb-sniffing dogs fanned the hallways.

The buildup was clearly more charged than the somber audience that witnessed the talk. There were no signs of protests or heckling during the roughly 40-minute-long session.

In the days leading up to her appearance, Trump was a pinata for criticism, creating as much publicity as any CES keynote speaker in recent years — to the delight of CTA organizers.

“(T)here are many more women who are in tech and are entrepreneurs who could run circles around Trump on how technology will impact the future of work,” said Forbes contributor Carolina Milanese, a prominent tech analyst.

“What an insult to the years and years of protesting how few women were invited to keynote… there are so many great, qualified women,” added entrepreneur Rachel Sklar, who has campaigned for more women to have opportunities in tech.

Shapiro defended the selection of Trump on Monday in a phone interview with MarketWatch. “I think the press buzz is great. It’s wonderful to focus our attention on jobs,” said Shapiro, who noted that about half of the CES keynote participants this year are women. “Hiring skilled people is one of our nation’s biggest challenges.”

Shapiro said he asked Trump — who is co-chair of the National Council for the American Worker, whose volunteers include Apple Inc. AAPL, -0.47%  CEO Tim Cook, International Business Machines Corp. IBM, +0.07%  CEO Ginni Rometty and Walmart Inc. WMT, -0.93%  CEO Doug McMillon — to speak at CES during a meeting last March at the White House. The meeting is outlined in the new paperback edition of his book, “Ninja Future: Secrets to Success in the New World of Innovation,” which comes out this week.

“Ivanka challenged me and our industry to help develop job skills” in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and autonomous vehicles during last year’s meeting, Shapiro said. “I know the president is very divisive. I am not a Democrat or a Republican. I voted for Hillary Clinton. But I think people should be judged on what they do, and the White House is doing good work in this area (developing job skills in the digital economy).”

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