Ruth Levine, founder of SpeakInc. Speakers bureau, released her list of the most popular female speakers for 2014 in July 2013. That prompted us to get in touch and ask her more about gender and the corporate speaker circuit.

MeetingsNet: Do you get requests specifically for female speakers?
Ruth Levine: We do get requests specifically for female speakers and meeting planners are often sheepish about the request because they don't want to seem as if they are being sexist or politically incorrect. Typically the requests come from groups where past speakers have been mostly male, and since their audiences are mixed, they want to have a female speaker to better represent both sexes. We also have meeting planners ask for ethnic speakers because of some of the ethnic minorities in their audience. There just are not that many ethnic speakers on the circuit. And for the ones who are out there, they prefer to be booked on their topic versus their race or ethnicity.

MN: Are there more male speakers in general than female speakers? Any changes in this breakdown that you are seeing?
RL: I have been in the industry for more than 25 years and the scales have always been tipped heavily with male speakers. I would say that for every female speaker on the circuit, there are at least 20 males. As a woman, I would like to say that this is changing and evolving such that there are more female speakers than in years past. Sadly, that is not the case. 

MN: Is there any difference in the average fee for a female speaker versus a male speaker?
RL: No. When you break down speakers by category, topic, and level of expertise, it is an even playing field in terms of fees. I have yet to get a request for a female speaker because a planner thinks they will save money.


The Top 11


1. Robyn Benincasa – Adventurer Who Inspires
“Adventure racer” Robyn Benincasa inspires people to do amazing things: climb Mount Kilimanjaro, run their first triathlon, or start their own business.


2. Cheryl Cran – Leader and Strategist
Years of in-depth research, hours with focus groups, and analysis of audience response data are the foundation of Cheryl Cran's business excellence strategies.


3. Molly Fletcher – The Female Jerry Maguire
Sports agent Molly Fletcher has worked with hundreds of household names in major league and college sports.


4. Libby Gill – Branding and PR
An entertainment industry veteran, Libby Gill’s PR/branding history spans Universal Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Turner Broadcasting.


5. Sally Hogshead – Attention Span and Fascination
Sally Hogshead is the world's leading expert on fascination. She will show you how to use your advantages to immediately break through and communicate your value, knowing that in today's distracted world, people have a nine-second attention span.


6. Terri Sjodin – The Art of Persuasion
Terri Sjodin’s unique specialization is advancing the persuasive presentation skills of professionals. She is the author of the bestseller Small Message, Big Impact...


7. Juliet Funt – Over Being Overcommitted
American companies spend $150 billion a year on pressure-related disability, and even more with tension-related drains that waste time, lower morale, and raise employee turnover. Juliet Funt’s take on easing up your “crazy busy” life is both hilarious and practical.


8. Victoria Labalme – The Communicator
Victoria Labalme gets teams engaged, helping them communicate and connect with clients, customers, and each other.


9. Jeanne Bliss – The Customer Experience Expert
Learn from Jeanne Bliss, an executive who has driven 95 percent loyalty rates and changed customer experiences across 50,000-person organizations.


10. Lynne Lancaster – The Generational Translator
Lynne Lancaster advises leaders, managers, and employees on how to conduct business more successfully by bridging generation gaps at work and in the marketplace.


11. Jean Chatzky – The Money Expert
Any audience benefits from the financial tips and statistics from book author and daily blogger Jean Chatzky, the financial editor of the “Today” show.


This article was originally published in July 2014.