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Value Women Speakers on International Women’s Day

Surely women speakers should be valued on International Women’s Day? Isn’t this part of the deal: that we ensure women are paid as much as men; that we respect the contribution women are making in business and that we find ways to empower women so they have the same opportunities as men.

Today: International Women’s Day, there are events, where women’s achievements are being celebrated; they are given support and ideas to progress in their careers; to be empowered to ask for opportunities and become more visible. Yet there is a trend for women speaking at these events not to be paid even if they are professional speakers.

Of course, when there are not for profit events, I can totally understand that there is a limited budget for speakers. However, if sponsorship has been negotiated for the venue, AV support (guess what, this doesn’t come for free) and refreshments (again it is unlikely this will be delivered for free), there should also be funding put aside for the speakers – at the very least to pay their travel expenses.

As you will know, I am a member of the Professional Speakers Association, and for some time there have been debates about International Women’s Day and the reality and expectation that professional female speakers will donate their time and expertise for free. Here are some of the excuses for not paying.

  • There is no budget for speakers (yet there is for free facials for all attendees)
  • We will write you a testimonial (a year later, still waiting for one such promised testimonial)
  • You can have some photos after the event
  • We will video you (yes, but what is the quality like?)
  • You will get a foot in the door of xxx company. The reality is that a decision maker isn’t available to be introduced to
  • It will be exposure? – What: to a professional speaker??

There are a couple of things that can happen when you, as organisers, go down this route

  • The quality of your speakers is lower. Why should excellent professional speakers work in these conditions? They are sharing their expertise; their content; their experiences.
  • Speakers who deliver will be more likely to sell from the stage in order to justify the time at the event
  • You will struggle to get good quality speakers to speak and this will damage the quality of your event in future years – word does get around.

I often hear organisers of women’s events within corporate organisations saying “We have no money” or “This is not for profit”. Fine; I would say, if you have no money, you should be asking your organisation for appropriate funding TO TRAIN YOUR EMPLOYEES. And for the latter: it is not for profit – which still means you buy in services, including speakers.

But most importantly, you are stating that women speakers are not worth paying even though you are organising an event to empower women. And what does that say about your values and attitudes towards women.

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