first published on February 20, 2020 by Mette Johansson

"We want to show our women support on International Women’s Day. Can you come in and speak for a few hours? Unfortunately, we don’t have a budget for this, so it will have to be unpaid.”

If you’re a female speaker, you are very likely to have experienced a conversation like this.

Can we please have a very thorough rethink?

Have you considered the following?

You pay your (predominantly) male speakers for speaking at your internal sales conferences, regional management conferences, executive conferences … and I am sure you do so because you expect a return on investment.

So why not pay women speakers on International Women’s Day? Don’t you believe in the return on investment by having a woman speak to inspire, motivate and engage your audience? Don’t you believe in the return on investment by teaching your women skills or changing their mindsets? Don’t you believe in the return on investment of having more diversity in your leadership?

And if there is a return on investment, shouldn’t your female speaker have a share of this?

Please consider the message you are sending on empowering women, when you ask women to speak for free on International Women’s Day:

You are supporting the status quo in the pay gap, for starters.

You are not showing true appreciation for the speaker.

You are not giving women the confidence to believe they are worth it.

And you are sending this message to ALL the women in the room.

Also, please bear in mind:

Speaking is how professional speakers earn their living and feed their families. There must be a fair value exchange, which is usually money.

Speaking is NEVER about just popping up and chatting (if that’s what you expect from your speaker, you’ve probably not chosen a very good one). It reflects years, and, in many cases, decades of experience and training condensed into a 20- or 60-minute talk. And, it’s hours and hours, or even days and weeks of preparation to deliver a talk – even for the one that you’ve done dozens of time before.

You can still change this. Do you have women speaking on International Women’s Day? Speak up, ask for the budget, and pay your non-male speakers like you pay your male speakers.

On behalf of the women you want to empower - thank you!


Mette Johansson is leads MetaMind, a training consultancy focusing on a wide range of leadership skills. In addition, Mette is the Founder and Chair of KeyNote - Women Speakers Directory, a non-profit initiative with the mission to bring diversity to speaking stages.