Want to Celebrate International Women's Day (IWD) Equitably? Pay Your Presenters.

March 6, 2020

The Feminuity Team

March 8th is International Women’s Day (IWD), a time of year when we celebrate women's achievements and visibility while highlighting areas for more improvement. The 2020 theme is #EachForEqual, which calls upon each of us—from corporations to individuals—to work towards creating a “gender-equal world.” With this collective goal in mind, we need to make sure our efforts to celebrate IWD. do not exacerbate existing inequities. One way businesses and event organizers can be #EachforEqual in their IWD events is to compensate their presenters financially, i.e. pay them money.


We need to make sure our efforts to celebrate I.W.D. do not exacerbate existing inequities.

When we organize events meant to empower and include marginalized groups, it matters whether we pay presenters for their labour. Especially when most presenters for IWD. are from marginalized groups, not paying them for their work can contribute to a gendered and racialized wealth gap. For example, it is more often women and Black, Indigenous people of colour who participate in numerous unpaid and unacknowledged labour in private and public spaces. Being asked to work for free compounds these issues. 


When we organize events meant to empower and include marginalized groups, it matters whether we pay presenters for their labour.


If you are in a position of privilege, power, or influence: paying presenters is a way to shift from words to action. When celebrating IWD. or organizing other events meant to empower marginalized communities, paying presenters is a crucial place to level up your diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. 


Exposure is Not Compensation


Speaking at an event can provide a speaker with exposure, but this is sometimes used to justify a lack of financial compensation. Unfortunately, exposure doesn’t pay the rent. It doesn't guarantee financial gain when there is only the hope that someone in the room will hire them. We can use the following analogy. When getting a haircut, we don’t ask the hairdresser to give us money to cut our hair. Instead, we recognize that they are doing us a service. We also don’t tell the hairdresser they should pay us to work on our hair so they’ll get exposure because our friends may see it, or we may give them a good review. Presenters deserve payment for their time, expertise, abilities, and the value they bring to events. 


Being invited to speak at an event can be a privilege and an honour, but it’s also a privilege to have great presenters. On the presenter’s portion of the IWD website, they state, “Some presenters charge fees, and some generously participate at no cost. Contact these presenters directly to negotiate.” Such phrasing may encourage presenters to forgo compensation because they care about the ‘cause.’ Even though they may find something personally, professionally, or emotionally rewarding; they don’t need to do it for free or at a financial loss. 


Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Events can be financially demanding, and paying for presenters can be a significant expense. Consider presenters much like any other service or vendor. Food and beverages are not free, so presenters shouldn’t be either. After all, they are a large part of the reason people come through the door. Here are some ways to equitably compensate presenters:

  • Cover all the presenter's expenses (travel, accommodation, food, registration fees, etc.) If a speaker is losing work hours, they also should not lose personal funds. 
  • Don’t have the budget to cover everything? Consider a venue change, serve a less expensive lunch, forgo the free “swag” items, or raise your ticket price.
  • Be open and honest about your expectations and what you can cover upfront.
  • Allocate budgets and honoraria for presenters early on. 
  • Good content is expensive, and if your ticket prices can’t cover it, you may need to refine the event format to make it viable.
  • Provide an option for presenters to donate their honorarium and any expenses already covered by their employer towards a related charity or student scholarship.
  • Be innovative when choosing methods to help cut down on fees.
  • Consider reaching out to presenters who reside in the same city as the event so they do not have extra expenses. 
  • You can also reach out to sponsors to financially support a presenter. 
  • Try asking people to present from a remote location. In addition to reducing costs, this can often be more inclusive for some presenters. When doing so, make sure you meet the proper accessibility needs for viewers, such as closed captioning. 
  • If you’re an organization with a limited budget, have an open discussion with presenters about other ways to support them.
  • If you have the consent of the attendees, provide presenters with a list of attendee emails to reach out to after the event. Welcome them to sell promotional materials (such as their books). Allow them to have a booth or stand for (self) marketing and advertising. Give them some complimentary tickets for guests.
  • Provide presenters with high-quality photography or video content for their portfolio. Share their work and contributions widely on your social media channels. 


Are you a presenter who wants to advocate for your compensation? Read some tips on how to get paid to speak.