In October of 2018, we won an award for Innovation in Robotics from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which is run by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). The self-acclaimed “proving ground for innovators and breakthrough technologies” recognized the advanced and unique technology of our new product, Osé.
Our product utilizes biomimicry, microrobotics, and proprietary pneumatics, all of which is artfully designed into a hands-free device. There is not another product like this on the market; it is the first-of-its-kind. So when CES notified us of the award, we were overjoyed. When we shared the news with our primarily female engineering team, all their hard work and brilliance was reinforced. We were making history.
Nearly a month after they first informed us of our win, the CTA contacted us and said they were disqualifying our product and rescinding the award. They claimed they had made a mistake and that, due to the nature of our product (their exact words were “profane,” “immoral,” and “obscene”), Osé should never have made it through the judging rounds. You can read more about this turn of events in our open letter.
Needless to say, we fought back. Their reasoning was not applied equitably, with several examples of products and services in the sex tech industry allowed to participate in the show. We didn’t accept their lame excuses. Nope, nope, nope.
The truth runs deeper than a simple process error, and we recognized it for the larger dysfunction and bias that this instance demonstrated. We called them out on their long history of sexism. Our message struck a chord with a whole lot of people. The story was picked up by every major news outlet across the globe. We received tens of thousands of emails and messages from people who were outraged and wanted to help. We lit a fuse and the CTA and CES were at the center of the firestorm. Realizing the public relations crisis they now had on their hands, they reached out to us. We told them that not only did we expect the reinstatement of our rightful award, we also expected to see progressive policy change that would prevent this kind of “mistake” from happening again.
Today, we are pleased to announce that CES has owned up to their mistake and returned our award. In their apology letter they say:
“Congratulations to you and your team on receiving this prestigious honor! We again apologize for not presenting the award to you last November.”
More importantly, we are actively consulting with the CTA and CES to implement diversity and safety driven policy changes and to create inclusive language. We are advocating for greater inclusivity for female-run and female-focused companies across the board.
The CTA and CES have been receptive to our recommendations, although their explicit agreement to make these changes, and a defined timeline, has been harder to come by. We are going to keep pushing for meaningful and progressive policy change until we see the representation of all people in this space.
We can’t win this fight without all of you. Your support and the momentous outcry that has come from this is what will make the difference. Join us in advocating for diversity and inclusivity in technology and business, and at CES. Sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on our progress and to get exclusive access to our Pre-Sale News.