It is hard to believe but September 21, 2017 is the day the world’s first full-service women’s-only talent agency opened its doors, with Australian women at history’s helm.
Jo Burston, the Inspiring Rare Birds founder, has joined forces with Lucy Perry, the agency’s executive director, to bring Rare Birds Speak to life. By representing Australia’s most remarkable, accomplished and inspiring female speakers, game changers, media commentators, story-tellers and subject matter experts, they are hoping to deliver real change.
Media extraordinaire Sandra Sully, confidence expert Kemi Nekvapil, Muslim ex-soldier and hostage survivor Rabia Siddique, disability advocate Carly Findlay and climate change pioneer Parrys Raine are among the talent already signed on.
The organisation’s mission is to “create gender balance on stages and pages all over the world” and both Burston and Perry are hopeful that the agency will render All Male Panels a relic from the past.
“I’ve been on the professional speaking circuit for more than a decade and I am often the only female speaker at events,” Perry says.
“Without female talent the audience is only getting half the story. It is time for audiences to get the full story.”
Burston says the panel pledge, signed by Male Champions of Change who agreed not to speak at events without gender balance, planted the seed for this business.
“The panel pledge highlighted a serious problem and brings some major corporates to the table and Rare Bids Speak is delivering the commercial solution. We’re giving these incredibly talented women a way to be more visible and industry a way to access the best female talent.”
— Jo Burston (@JoBurstonCEO) September 20, 2017
As it stands 15% of panelists and keynote speakers in Australia are female, less than 21% of experts quoted in the media are women and in the business press this drops of 12%.
Speaking at the launch in Sydney on Thursday Perry quoted the former federal sex discrimination commissioner, Liz Broderick, who said “If you don’t intentionally include women, the system unintentionally excludes.”
Enough is enough.
“Excuses like “there aren’t any women in this field’ just don’t cut it anymore,” Perry says.
The reality is there are bucket loads of talented, fascinating female speakers and the demand for their stories is growing.
— Debbie Platz (@debbie_platz) September 19, 2017
We’re unearthing emerging talent from sport, science, business, start-ups as well as signing on award-winning international speakers. Their stories are gobsmacking and they aren’t yet being placed on centre stage but we’re about to change that.”
The importance of another thorny issue for female speakers – being paid appropriately – was made clear when an attendant at the launch recounted an eye-opening experience.
Earlier this year she was asked to speak at an international summit in Copenhagen, an invitation she was honoured to receive. While there she was chatting to a male friend who asked what fee she had secured for the appearance. When she said nothing, his jaw dropped, he said he was being paid $15K and said she needed to get with the program.
Here’s to more women on stages and pages everywhere … and being paid the way their male peers are.
This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.