A few months ago, I received an email from a conference organizer who was “super excited” that I am in Chicago because they were having their conference here and I was their first choice for keynote speaker.
As I do, I responded with a note about how flattering that was and thanked her for thinking of me. And then I told her Dawn Buford, my right- and left-hand, would get back to her on the specifics.
Fast forward a few days later and I received another email from the woman who said my fees were too high and asked me to please reduce them.
She told me Dawn wouldn’t budge so she’d try me. She begged and pleaded. She told me they’d buy me wine and pay for a cab to pick me up and drop me off. Anything if I’d reduce my fee.
But we had already reduced my fee because it wasn’t necessary for me to get on a plane and I wouldn’t be away from the office for a full day.
So I stood my ground.
And she told me they had to go a different direction. They just couldn’t afford me.
And a Different Direction They Went
A few months went by and I received an email from a friend who was in town to speak at a conference. He wanted to know if I could get together for drinks or dinner.
After setting our date for dinner, I asked him where he was speaking.
He told me.
It was the same conference where I’d been invited as their “first choice,” but had ended up being too expensive.
I asked him what they were paying him.
IT WAS THREE TIMES WHAT I HAD QUOTED THEM.
Not only was it three times what I had quoted them, they also were paying his expenses. And he was staying at the Peninsula, not Motel 6.
Even if he embellished his fee to me, I knew it had to be significantly more than what I quoted them, if only because they were also paying to get him to Chicago.
Slapped in the Face with Gender and Pay Inequality
This was the first time—in my entire career—I’d been slapped in the face with gender and pay inequality.
Sure, there are lots of times I’ve not been paid as much as my male counterparts.
But they’re all more experienced than I am and they all make speaking a career. I do not.
So I’m okay with them making more.
But to be told I’m too expensive, in my own home town, only to find out later that a male colleague was paid significantly more?
I can’t think of any other reason that would be except he’s a man and I am not.
And, trust me, I’ve tried to think of every other reason because I refuse to believe that so blatantly still happens.
There Are Plenty of Great Women Out There
As I look at conference line-ups and talk to friends who place speakers in keynote slots, it is all still dominated by men.
I hear things such as, “We need to get a woman as a headliner” or “Can you speak at this conference? We need some women.”
But that’s not because there aren’t plenty of really smart, really great women speakers to go around.
None of us are paid close to what the aforementioned male colleagues are paid, but none of the five of us do this for a living.
We do it to educate the industry. To help colleagues and peers work through challenges. To provide solutions that help move the industry forward.
And yet, we’re not dominating the keynote slots or hearing complaints that the conferences are female-dominated (do you think we’ll live to hear that?).
Whatever the reason this happens, there is nothing worse than another woman not supporting women.
And that’s exactly what this conference organizer did when she told me I was too expensive and then hired a male colleague who ended up costing nearly four times my fee.
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