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PARITY: The struggle is real (but it maybe a question of confidence)

Men tend to make more than women. It is true in speaking, and it is true in the rest of society. We t
Standing oration
PARITY: The struggle is real (but it maybe a question of confidence)
By Kristian from Speakers Loft • Issue #5 • View online
Men tend to make more than women. It is true in speaking, and it is true in the rest of society. We thought we’d dig a bit deeper into this issue, and here is a spoiler: it’s not exactly straightforward. A feeling of awkwardness may be partly to blame.

The good news is that parity on average seems to be a little closer in speaking than in other jobs. The bad news is that we are still not there. To learn what is up and down, we took 37.000 real speakers deals and assigned them to either female or male speakers. Then this happened.

(What women make as a percentage of men’s average fee):
Western Europe: 69%
Northern Europe: 107%
Northern America (US + Canada): 75%
The United Kingdom and Ireland: 85%

I could be tooting my own horn here (we’re in Denmark), but well done Northern Europe! In most territories, there is a bit of catching up to do. When we dug deeper, something else emerged.
The curious case of the United Kingdom
While it generally held in all surveyed territories that for every one female speaker, there were three male speakers. It also showed that women speakers get close to one in four gigs, meaning that there seem to be no - or only a very vague - discrimination from bureaus or customers. Women received an equal share of speaking opportunities. Notably so, it would seem, if you live on an island, to the immediate west of the European mainland and is of the anglophone persuasion.

(Women’s share of requests were as follows):
Western Europe: 26%
Northern Europe: 23%
Northern America (US + Canada): 22%
United Kingdom and Ireland: 33% (!)

That is quite a difference concerning the United Kingdom and Ireland.
I guess I was prematurely tooting the Scandinavian horn when I polished the Scandinavian halo: It doesn’t do the Northern European women much good that they’re paid well, when they get a smaller slice of the available-gigs-pie.
I have no exact explanation as to why we see the pattern we do in the UK, but note that these numbers fit the tip-of-tongue-titled World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2018 pretty well. The WEFGGR2018 is an interesting, but very long read, if you’re interested in these matters.
If you’re more into sunshine and ice cream (even if you know this is important), that is understandable.
If women speakers make more, all speakers win.
If women speakers make more, all speakers win.
So… why the difference?
Do women provide more value than men, when they are on stage?
That is highly unlikely. Although that would be the conclusion if you were to believe the tenets of conventional economic theory, that goes something like “a free market is a wonderful place filled with rational agents, pursuing rational decision-making, so prices will self-adjust.” 
I assume this place is also brimming with unicorns, coconuts, and small waterfalls.
So probably something else is going on. One researcher had an interesting suggestion. She said:
Women are awkward, men are funny.

Or more precisely: women think they are awkward, men think they are funny. The words aren’t mine but those of Annie Pettit, a researcher who took it upon herself to shed some light on the issue of why women were underrepresented. In short, she asked how people would feel about going on stage. While everybody claimed they’d be nervous, women tended to use words like nervous and awkward; men tended to use words like entertaining and intelligent.
What Pettit’s work shows, I think, is that women are more reluctant to become speakers in the first place. You should read the whole thing, and judge for yourself. I enjoyed the perspective. I think we can make speaking better for everyone by being aware of these unintended patterns.
That’s all for now. I wish you tons of success and remember that you have tons of speaker colleagues right here.
See you with a new edition in a week, and please send me an email at with your thoughts on things we should look into.
Discuss with your peers
P.S. Use the thumbs up/down to let us know if we should pursue this topic.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Kristian from Speakers Loft

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