When it comes to keynote speakers, all top speakers bureaus offer highly rated orators gifted at weaving facts, anecdotes and personal histories into transformational speeches that motivate and inspire. The goal for planners is to find the exact right speaker with the exact right style, history, knowledge and message for a specific audience at a specific moment in time.
Often, the right keynote speaker at the right moment is a woman, not necessarily because of her gender but because of her unique history, expertise and message.
Kati Quigley, CMP, senior director, partner marketing and recruiting, for Microsoft Corporation, works on multiple conferences each year. She says the company uses internal as well as external keynote speakers. “Our primary focus when choosing speakers is their expertise, whether the topic is business, leadership or technology.”
A speaker, Quigley says, also must have the ability to tell a story and an open, diverse point of view. “Diversity is a critical factor in ensuring all perspectives are considered and represented. We always strive for a diverse set of speakers, not just in terms of gender but in terms of culture, geography and experience.”
Women speakers may be particularly relevant to diversity in the tech industry. “We have some robust programs for Women in Technology that are well represented at our events,” Quigley says, “but given the statistics showing that women in the technology industry are not as well represented, we’re doing everything we can to improve that, down to the speakers we choose.”
That’s not just good for women it’s good for business in general. “There are so many studies showing that having women’s voices heard improves the business outcome considerably,” Quigley notes.
That said, women stand on their own as keynoters, experts in their fields who are able to inspire and motivate audiences comprised of women and men.
Here are 10 inspiring women who provide keynote addresses on diverse topics for a range of fees. Young, older, entrepreneurial, corporate, flyers, drivers, survivors, CEOs, innovators, philanthropists — many of these women boldly went where few (or no) women went before them. One may be just the right keynoter for your next event.
Corporate Vice President
One Commercial Partner Team.
Gavriella Schuster speaks primarily at Microsoft events but also for such groups as Women of the Channel.
She is responsible for global partner channels and programs, with a focus on driving digital transformation for partners and customers. She’s also responsible for reaching, connecting, enabling, investing in and rewarding partners through high-touch and low-touch experiences. Over the last 20 years at Microsoft she has managed sales and marketing teams across the server and cloud business, the Windows client commercial business, Enterprise Services, licensing sales and marketing, field business development, training initiative development, segment marketing, worldwide partner marketing and training strategies, and worldwide operations.
“It is so important to help other women understand how to find their voice, their passion and their confidence. Being a great leader is about having a point of view — a vision — and being able to bring people along. If you’re afraid to state your opinion and point of view, it is very hard to be a leader. We need more women in leadership roles because I believe women are fundamentally more collaborative and have higher EQ than men. Women do not get as tied up in their egos and understand how to take another person’s point of view. Women need to take their space and not shrink back from the attention they’ll get when they state their opinions. I lead my life as an authentic person. I know my center and my true north, and I believe it is very important for me to mentor and help others to find their authentic voice.”
Entrepreneur, former head of Mike’s Hard Lemonade.
American Program Bureau Inc.
Currently the CEO of Stashwall Inc., an early-stage technology startup, Anat Baron is best known as the marketing wunderkind behind Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Within three years, she grew Mike’s into a $200 million juggernaut — establishing a new product category in the ultra-competitive alcoholic beverage industry. Baron’s eclectic and highly successful career has included working with well-known hotel brands including Four Seasons, Holiday Inn and Radisson, and as a Hollywood executive and producer. She wrote, produced and directed “Beer Wars,” an award-winning documentary exploring the David and Goliath story of the $100 billion U.S. beer industry. Driving Baron’s success is her strong belief that organizations and individuals should thrive on change rather than fear it. She infuses this inspiring point of view into every presentation, motivating audiences to take charge and galvanizing them into action.
Fiat Automotive Dealer Principle
Named among the Top 100 Women in the Automotive Industry.
Eagles Talent Speakers Bureau
Lisa Copeland has dedicated her career to revolutionizing the automotive industry and, through her trailblazing example, empowering women to pursue their truest form of success. In 2016, she sold her award-winning dealership to pursue her passion for leading a team committed to transforming businesses and promoting corporate civility and winning cultures. Copeland joined the executive team of EBW2020 (Empowering a Billion Women by 2020) as CMO, where she continues her dedication to promoting the full economic potential of women across the globe through financial education and technology. She’s also cofounder of Women Impacting the Nation, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing leadership roles for women.
“I believe as leaders we have a responsibility to mentor younger and less experienced women. Studies show that women who have a powerful mentor/role model are more likely to advance at a higher rate than those who don’t. I personally mentor five women. I receive as much from them as I give. Celebrating their success and helping them navigate the corporate waters is an absolute win-win.“
Australian national champion ski racer who survived a traumatic road accident, TED talk speaker with more than 1 million views.
Eagles Talent Speakers Bureau
In training for the Winter Olympics, skier Janine Shepherd was hit by a truck on a bike ride, suffering multiple life-threatening injuries. Doctors warned her parents that, even if she lived, she would never walk again. After major spinal surgery, months of immobilization and struggling to rehabilitate with permanent disabilities, she rekindled her defiant spirit in a dramatically improbable way. Seeing a small plane fly overhead one day, she declared, “If I can’t walk, I’ll fly!” She went on to succeed not only as a commercial pilot and flight instructor but also to attain her university degree, raise three children and author the bestselling book Never Tell Me Never (Random House Australia, 2007), which was subsequently made into a feature-length film. Her latest book Defiant (Sounds True, 2016) offers hope and encouragement for anyone facing a life challenge. Her inspiring TED talk “A Broken Body Isn’t a Broken Person” has garnered more than 1.5 million views. She also has been recognized with her country’s highest honor, The Order of Australia.
“As women in business and life in general, we need to learn to love the hills. I developed this philosophy very early in life. Whenever I wanted training, I always took on the hills with a passion, and that was something that not only made me physically strong but also mentally tough. This is more than just a training philosophy; it’s a particular way of looking at life. I look at all my challenges as another hill there to teach me and help me grow into a wiser, more compassionate person.”
BERNICE A. KING
CEO of The King Center and youngest daughter of Coretta Scott King and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Macmillan Speakers Bureau
CEO of The King Center, founded by her mother in 1968, Bernice A. King is nationally and internationally known as one of the most powerful, motivating and life-changing orators and speakers on the circuit today. She began her oratorical journey when she spoke in her mother’s stead at the United Nations at age 17. In 2013, she spearheaded the global events that took place in Washington, DC, to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and her father’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech. King is a graduate of Spelman College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and Masters of Divinity and Doctorate of Law degrees from Emory University. She is currently a member of the State Bar of Georgia, serves on the HOPE Southeastern Board of Directors of Operation HOPE, is a member of the International Women’s Forum and serves as a mentor and advisor to the Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy, grades 6–12.
Social entrepreneur, humanitarian, adventure traveler.
Eagles Talent Speakers Bureau
At the age of 20, Mallory Brown strapped on a backpack and set out to discover new people and places, a journey on which she was deeply touched by the universality of basic human need. Today, she’s a successful social entrepreneur, worldwide adventure traveler and humanitarian. She founded World Clothes Line, a “buy one, give one” apparel company with a mission to clothe the world, and is the first brand ambassador for CrowdRise, the largest crowdfunding platform for good. As director of the CrowdRise 24-Hour Impact Project, she runs flash fundraisers that engage donors in full-circle philanthropy. She also serves as director of communication for global nonprofit Chefs4Kids, and creates innovative strategies for giving and transforms the lives of children in need around the world. She has worked on the ground in 22 countries, representing dozens of companies and helping hundreds of generous donors help thousands in need. She has attracted corporate sponsorship from organizations such as Ford Motor Company, Zappos, Moosejaw Mountaineering, CreateMyTee and Meijer. She shared her new approach to philanthropy at TEDx Detroit 2015 with a talk titled “How to Save the World Before You’re 30.”
“This is a wonderful time for career women as we are breaking so much new ground. …Yet, there is still so much progress to be made. Did you know there are more CEOs with the first name John than total female CEOs? That’s crazy!!! We’re stepping up to change the game!”
To women striving for success in life and business she says, “Be fearless. Often, your own fear is the only thing holding you back. Use your femininity. Women think differently, often more creatively and in a well-rounded way. Use that to find your niche. Find balance with your personal life. Individual growth fosters career development…and vice versa! Join forces. Women are community-oriented and love to help. Ask a female entrepreneur for mentorship. Give back. The old adage stands true: ‘The more you give, the more you get!’ ”
Social activist, founder of Global Girlfriend.
Macmillan Speakers Bureau
Stacey Edgar started Global Girlfriend in 2003 as a way to provide economic security for women in need by creating a sustainable market for their products. She has been honored by Microsoft Corporation as a recipient of the company’s “Start Something Amazing” awards, and is a sought-after speaker on the topics of women in the global economy, fair trade, sex trafficking, market and enterprise development, cause marketing, entrepreneurship and parlaying your passion into your career.
AMELIA ROSE EARHART
Around-the-world pilot, founder of the Fly With Amelia Foundation.
Eagles Talent Speakers Bureau
Named by the Jaycees as one of the Top 10 Young Americans, Amelia Rose Earhart recreated and symbolically completed the 1937 flight of her namesake, Amelia Mary Earhart. Her 28,000-mile flight around the world in a single-engine aircraft became a symbol of determination, courage and empowerment for anyone seeking new horizons. She is the president of the Fly With Amelia Foundation, a nonprofit providing flight training scholarships to young women across America. She can be seen each morning on Denver’s NBC affiliate, KUSA-TV, reporting on breaking news and traffic. She is currently working toward her multi-engine aircraft rating.
“The world is filled with people who will support you, encourage you and give you a helping hand. The world is also full of people who are consumed with sadness, which will translate to criticism, mockery and painful attacks of other’s goals and actions. Remember this: The world is changed by our actions, not by our opinions. Turbulence often occurs when we are crossing mountains…and those who stay locked up in a hangar will never feel the bumps.”
Lost both legs saving her children during a tornado, founder of the Stephanie Decker Foundation.
Eagles Talent Speakers Bureau
In March 2012, a tornado ripped through Henryville, Indiana. As her house began to disintegrate around her, Stephanie Decker shielded her two young children with her body. Her dream home fell in, crushing her legs, but because of her heroic actions, Stephanie’s children were amazingly unscathed. It was a miracle that she even survived and made it to the hospital. At that point, doctors determined that parts of both legs would need to be amputated. Decker has become a symbol of survival and overcoming adversity. She has used her story to bring awareness to the Stephanie Decker Foundation, which supports children with prosthetics and accessibility to leading edge prosthetics.
“Nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible. I lost both of my legs in a tornado saving my two young children. I became a different woman that day. I found my fight and challenged the impossible. I believed when no one else did. It’s never too late to find your legacy, your ‘why’ in life. That’s what separates the bad from the good and the good from the great. There are days that will beat you down until you feel you have nothing left to give, but it’s how you take the sourest of those lemons and make some semblance of lemonade. Whatever that may look like, find the beautiful, strong, perfect woman in you and push the impossible.” C&IT
By Deborah Gardner, CMP
It’s a fact! The world is still male-dominated. Women continue to be devalued and underrepresented across industries, including in the meetings world. The irony is that men are just as disturbed by this as women. According to a BBC News report, many male conference speakers are criticizing meeting organizers for setting up “dude fests” and are pledging to boycott events that don’t include women experts or speakers.
In the meetings industry, it’s obvious that there is an unconscious and unintended process that happens when selecting speakers. And, yes, it’s hard to find good women speakers especially on a topic like leadership. There are not many women who have experienced being a leader firsthand. However, women do have a perspective that audiences can relate to. I have not experienced many leadership title positions, but I know what an audience of leaders can do to help their employees.
To make a change, there is a lot that corporate meeting professionals can do. Be aware of your bias, gather data to set company guidelines, and educate others on why it’s important to hire more women speakers. Ask for recommendations from previous speakers you have hired. For other resources, contact speakers bureaus and solicit on social media outlets such as the Power Women of National Speakers Association (NSA) Facebook page, which has more than 700 amazing women speakers and, of course, the NSA website.
If speakers were chosen by a system that treated gender fairly and the focus was on “value added,” women speakers would no longer be in the minority on the dais. We need to call out gender bias and be more confidently proactive in bringing brilliant and compelling women to the stage.
Deborah Gardner, CMP, is a swimming champion, sports broadcaster and hospitality veteran turned author of How to Sell to Men Without Wearing a Low-Cut Dress. A Meetings Mean Business advocate and competitive performance expert, Deborah helps audiences get to the “champion” level. As one of only six speakers to receive a CMP, she has presented to hundreds of companies and organizations worldwide. To reach her with your thoughts, visit www.DeborahGardner.com.