You founded Innovation Women, an online speakers bureau for entrepreneurial and technical women. What need did you seek to fill with your company?
It’s 2016 and we’re still attending events where all (or at least most) of the speakers are “all-male, all-pale” or the same 5 women are on stage. The event managers pick up new speakers from each other’s events. This perpetuates the same voices, the same stories, the same content, and a lack of diverse opinions and viewpoints.
Meanwhile, there are awesome stories, points of view, and incredible information we’re ALL missing out on. These are the hidden gems, the cool people, and the real deals, who can’t seem to break out or break into the circuit because someone else (usually a guy if we’re talking about tech events) is onstage for the umpteenth time.
Why is this an issue for women? Because speaking engagements are an important part of any marketing and visibility program. Every time you get on stage and have the ability to tell your story, you gain access to customers, partners, job opportunities, and even funding (if you are an entrepreneur). Until we’re being seen on stage, en masse, we can forget things like pay equity, 50/50 representation in the board room, equality in venture funding, and an equal number of spots at the top.
What unique challenges and opportunities do you see for my readers, women in midlife or older, that Innovation Women taps into?
As one of those “midlife or older” women, I know there is still a lot of unconscious bias that keeps us off stage (both in the sense of events and conferences, and in life). An entrepreneur looks like Mark Zuckerberg, right? An investor looks like Peter Thiel, doesn’t “he”? A mentor is a generic older male. Quick—name a high growth startup CEO. Or CTO. Or VC. The men are top of mind for so many people because that’s what they keep seeing. Their perceptions and that unconscious bias keep getting reinforced.
There’s also so-called in-group bias, or the tendency for people to give preferential treatment (including opportunities) to others they perceive to be members of their own groups. With fewer women in almost every senior role in business, we don’t have enough female advocates, mentors, sponsors, and champions.
Every time we can get a woman on stage, we’re providing an example and a role model, as well as giving an individual woman a chance to market her story.
Tell us more about how you help women, what services you offer.
Innovation Women is a speakers bureau for entrepreneurial, technical, and innovative women. We provide top women with more visibility and opportunity to demonstrate thought leadership. We help event managers find great female presenters, creating more gender-balanced panels at events and conferences.
Event managers get free accounts and speakers pay just $100/year for a basic account that helps them connect to the wealth of opportunities available. We market the whole site, as well as individual speakers, to events where they can connect with the great opportunities speaking engagements offer.
Innovation Women makes it so easy to find a great speaker that there are no excuses for not having women on a panel AND it makes it so easy that we could see event managers sourcing all their speakers from us.
In addition, we’re seeing reporters using the site to access various expert sources. Professors and teachers have used the site to find guest lecturers and visiting professors. Over time we’ll be adding more features to the site.
What other resources do you recommend for women entrepreneurs and speakers?
- I’m not sure how I would exist in the business world without LinkedIn to remind of who that person was at that company that I sat next to at such and such conference.
- I love the Quora community for asking and answering the questions I haven’t yet thought of.
- I love Slack’s “brush knock” noise for alerting me to messages from my various teams.
- I love Klipfolio for providing me with a business dashboard to help me keep track of everything, from website traffic to social media sentiment, in one spot.
- I love how we can connect with women all over the world via Twitter: Our handle is @WomenInno.
- I listen to National Public Radio—everything from the game shows to the news to The Moth.
- I’ve learned tons from TEDx events.
Bobbie Carlton started Innovation Women to help gender-balance the panels and speaking slates at the many events she attends. Tired of all-male panels, she “Kickstarted” a company, crowdfunding enough to build an online database for awesome women speakers.
Bobbie is also the founder of Innovation Nights, a monthly product showcase and networking event. Innovation Nights uses social media to help get visibility for new products and has helped launch almost 900 new products, for free. Innovation Nights companies have collectively raised more than $1.2 billion. A PR and marketing professional with 30 years of experience, Bobbie runs Carlton PR & Marketing, a boutique agency in Lexington, MA.
In 2010 she was named one of the “Ten Bostonians who have done the most for the startup community”, and in 2011 she was a recipient of a Mass High Tech All-star award. In 2015 she received a Boston Business Journal Woman to Watch award. Follow Bobbie on Twitter as @BobbieC or @MassInno or now, @WomenInno.