Holy Pipeline! How to Get More Talented Women on Speaking Stages

“Lady Stages”

It’s an issue — getting talented women to speaking stages in tech and in many industries. So I’ve put together this handy guide with some key ways to attract talented women speakers and take credit for it, too. Double the standard, and double your ROI, return on inequity.

Point to the ‘Nebulous’ Pipeline Problem

Take a page from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) if people question why you don’t have enough women and cite the the “pipeline problem.” Tell people you can’t find qualified women speakers even when they’re everywhere and you could Google them, ask around and follow women during the year to ensure you have qualified female talent. Who has time for that kind of commitment? You don’t! The pipeline problem is your pressure valve — it’s not your problem. You don’t control the ‘pipeline.’ No one does. It’s like the internet. No one knows where it starts or stops. This absolves you of responsibility and will throw people off your trail for a while. Plus, ladies don’t understand all that complicated mechanical stuff. Whew! Note: I have looked inside a pipeline just to be sure…and well, yeah, there were no actual ladies there!

Pipelines are crazy-tricky. Source: Pexels.com

Treat Women Like Quotas

The best time to ask smart women is after the fact — after the budget is gone. It’ll make them feel special — like they made the post-budget cut. Sell it. When there’s no money left for all the women speakers you need to hit your quota that you brag about later in your marketing, tell candidates, “we really need women speakers. Our audience is almost half women. So help us fix things because we just couldn’t plan in advance. Plus, you’re pretty. And we need pretty window dressing.” Adamantly deny you deal in quotas and don’t believe in them, except when you need to check a box on percent of women speakers because people are asking.

Tell, not Show, Women You Value Them

Women like it when you romance them with sweet nothings…so tell them “we really value your contribution, and that’s why even though we don’t want to pay you, we feel happy to extend you an offer to give away your valuable expertise for free. We’re happy to do that for you. Plus, windows and dressing are both awesome; so we just doubled your cosmetic value.” Ladies like cosmetics. If women push back, tell them “well, so and so did it for free.” Even though it’s completely irrelevant to the issue, make sure you throw it in there and see if they bite.

Remind Women of the Value of Exposure (for You)

While we can’t pay you in money, we can pay you in something even more awesome: exposure. Remind women that exposure is all they need to be successful, and that without your conference and your stage, they wouldn’t have that chance to give away their knowledge for free. So they should be thanking you. If they protest, don’t be afraid to push back and tell them “they are just lucky to be invited,” or “we invited you because you like our conference, right?” Exposure is just like unicorns and pink monopoly money — fun and lady-friendly. Especially when paying them in chocolate isn’t available.

Making things pink is an easy way to make things fun for ladies.

Ask Women to Refer Friends to ‘Speak for Free’

Smart women speakers have smart female speaker friends. Ask women if they can refer you to their network of talented women or if they know any women that will speak for free with travel. Be ballsy; ask them to make an introduction to you so it’ll be a warm referral for free work. They’ll be burning bridges and maybe bras, and that’s your gain. Some women will feel flattered that you asked and, if you ask enough of them to burn contacts, you might get lucky.

Brag About Your On-Stage Gender Ratio

Make sure you are getting marketing mileage out of inviting women to speak. Tell sponsors and attendees you care about gender equality. Redirect everyone to the issue of women being on stages, not on paying them equally. Tell everyone you are making sure the stage looks like attendees. Remember, you’re giving women a break by giving them a chance to not get paid for their knowledge. And, you can take credit for discovering that talent and serving it up unpaid to attendees who, ironically, pay you big bucks. That’s just good business — for you.

What Do You Think?

How do you think women should be wooed to more conference stages? Let me know.

Yes, this is satire.

If you’re really interested in how to make a difference and close the female speaker gap, check out this piece I wrote. It’s seriously unfunny and chock full o’ good ideas companies and conferences can use.

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I am a speaker, author and comic. Founder of Keeping it Human, I help organizations, leaders and teams use strategy, play and improv to unleash creativity, innovation and storytelling so employees and customers thrive. I am a funny nerd MA, MBA, LOLOL. Sometimes I write funny about serious topics and seriously about funny topics. My fave audience is my son, who laughs himself silly daily until milk comes through his nose. I am at Kathy Klotz-Guest and @klotzguest on Instagram.

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Author, speaker, comedian. I turn teams into thriving idea-driven startups who lead in the moment with humor and improvisation. CEO, Keepingithuman.com. MA, MBA

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Kathy Klotz-Guest

Kathy Klotz-Guest

Author, speaker, comedian. I turn teams into thriving idea-driven startups who lead in the moment with humor and improvisation. CEO, Keepingithuman.com. MA, MBA

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