"Allison, it's because you're a woman," he said.
"What? You've got to be kidding me - that's the reason I'm not getting paid as much and as often to speak? Gender is an issue in 2015?"
The man who said that was a well-regarded, grand-daddy of the professional speaking industry. He explained that men are perceived as being more credible and confident on stage and their deeper voice makes men preferable to listen to.
[I'm calling bullsh*t]
Fast forward to 2019 and I received a phone call from the executive director of a large, public-facing organization.
"Allison, we'd love to have you speak at our event!"
"Wonderful! For that sized audience in that location, my speaking fee is $xx,000 plus travel."
"I apologize, I know you're a professional speaker, but we don't have a budget to pay you any more than a small honorarium."
"Ah, that's too bad. I'm surprised [male-speaker-name] is working for free. That's not typical."
"Oh, he's not. We paid him full fee. When we printed the agenda the committee realized we don't have a woman on the agenda so I need to have someone wave the female flag for us. It's just to be politically correct, and there's no budget for that."
I declined. Another woman said yes.
These are two stories - of way too many - that I've experienced as a professional speaker.
I'm not sure if it's about negotiation, acceptance, or systemic in this sort of a situation - I don't know what the discrepancies are between male / female divide when it comes to speaking in 2023 - I know my fees and I hold firm!
I truly believe that we are rounding a corner. Some of the most booked and talented, well-respected speakers on the circuit are WOMEN!!
The needle has moved - and there's a long way to go - but let's not forget there is still a disparity across most industries.
I believe a high tide raises all ships! That's why I continue to celebrate and encourage incredible female speakers I've been privileged to know - all year long - not just on IWD!