This time last year, in the midst of #MeToo and Time’s Up, we spoke about why female voices matter in the media, and how using female spokespeople in articles and press releases should be a part of every travel PR strategy.
But it’s not just on the page or screen that women need to be heard. In 2019 it’s time for more women to feature on panels and podiums, and start speaking in the flesh.
Public speaking opportunities are an excellent way to boost the visibility of female executives in any industry, but they are especially important in traditionally male-dominated fields. However, women are still too often shut out of these opportunities.
The tech sector is one of the biggest culprits. In 2018, speakers at the three biggest tech conferences – VivaTech, WebSummit and CES – were 73% male. At CES, six out of six keynote speakers were male, five of whom were white. We clearly need more diversity. Hearing women speak at events provides much-needed perspective for industry colleagues, making them think in new and different ways.
Nevertheless, the dearth of diversity isn’t entirely down to a lack of opportunities. In some cases, women are passing over the chance to speak. According to Bobbie Carlton, founder of Innovation Women, a female-led online speakers bureau, there are any number of reasons why women say no to public speaking – from diary clashes to a lack of company resources to cover travel expenses. Equality also plays a part. Carlton reports that female speakers are often paid less than men to appear, if at all. It is imperative that these barriers are addressed if we are to achieve a higher level of representation.
Speaker confidence may also be an issue. Social psychologists have determined that, while men tend to ‘overestimate’ their abilities and performance in workplace tasks, women ‘routinely underestimate’ both. This trend, dubbed the ‘confidence gap’, means women are less likely to apply for speaking opportunities or put themselves forwards for a panel, missing out on opportunities to boost their profile and further their career.
The good news is that confidence and action are interrelated. Believing in your ability to succeed compels action, while successful action fuels confidence. And confidence can be learnt.
Prominent industry figures such as Ariane Gorin, President of Expedia Partner Solutions, and Charlotte Pedersen, CEO of Luxaviation Helicopters, are setting an example to other would-be speakers by accepting and attending speaking opportunities on a regular basis. They are leading the conversation in traditionally male-dominated sectors (travel technology and business aviation), blazing a trail for other women to share their own insights into their fields: a sure-fire way to inspire confidence in other would-be speakers.
The PR gain
Conferences and events also have a knock-on effect on PR, with trade journalists often dispatched to cover the conversation. Putting women forward in the travel, technology, transport and aviation sectors means you’re more likely to be the voice of difference journalists are looking for – leading to better coverage, and more chance to tell your company’s story.
So, consider putting the women in your business forwards for speaking opportunities. For your PR plan, for your company, and for your industry, giving women a platform can only be a good thing.