Riding high on the sold-out event on International Women's Day last March, Singapore-based KeyNote Women Speakers Directory, which boasts of international media personality, Anita Kapoor, international radio presenter and host of Class 95FM Simone Heng, Paralympic medallist Theresa Goh, and Google's Women Will Ambassador and Member of Australia's UN Women National Committee Margie Warrell, has officially launched in the United States.
California, Washington, Utah, New York, and Florida are the founding states for the US chapters of KeyNote Women Speakers Directory. Less than two years since KeyNote's inception in December 2017, the directory now boasts of more than 50 women in its line-up with more women currently being vetted.
KeyNote was created to bring diversity to the speaking stages around the world. This is to counter the prevailing status quo in conferences and events. In 2016, Bloomberg reported that male speakers and male panels still dominate conferences in the US at a ratio of 2:1. That has not changed over the past two years with men still making up 68% of event speakers. The only exception according to a Bizzabo Gender Diversity & Inclusion Report were on education-focused events where female representation was 40% of the line-up. While a similar study is not available in Asia, the number of male panels or male-dominated panels are evident in events in Singapore considering the country is a hub for conferences in the region, with over 200 events happening in a year.
Bringing women experts together enables KeyNote to reach out to event organisers with alternatives to the usual male sources. Its roster includes women from the Finance, Technology, Business, Marketing, Legal, and Health and Wellness industries with more currently being vetted. As opposed to other speaker bureaus, KeyNote is a purely volunteer-run, mission-driven initiative. It is a special programme of Singapore-based PrimeTime Business and Professional Women's Association.
"At KeyNote, we're convinced that the time is right for accelerating women's empowerment. I see this as a huge opportunity to give women the confidence to speak on stages and make it easy for
conference organisers to find inspiring female speakers. Studies show that diversity increases group intelligence. Meaning that having more women on stages is good for all of us," said Mette Johansson, Chair of KeyNote Women Speakers Directory.
Aurelie Saada, President of PrimeTime highlighted the need for more diversity and inclusion, "We are proud of KeyNote's progress in raising awareness and shrinking the gender gap at industry events and every sector through its various partnerships and activities."
All the speakers in the directory are expected to give back to the community, for example through its Training Programme, now on its third cohort. The directory's professional speakers train women pro-bono on the art and technique of public speaking, which had the positive effect of boosting their confidence in speaking up at home and in the workplace. A number of its graduates has since been invited to join the directory.
Despite the existence of other speaker bureaus in the country, Marian Bacol-Uba, US Chapter Lead, believes KeyNote can carve a place in the market. "USA KeyNote is different than other speaker bureaus because we are mission-driven, inclusive and diverse. We focus on collaboration, community and empowering ourselves and each other."
The other founding speakers of the US Chapter mirror the diversity of its Asian HQ. Aside from Bacol- Uba, a TEDx Speaker, Conscious Business Coach, International Bestselling Author and the Founder of Thriver Lifestyle, the first set of speakers are:
Casey Halliley, a financial literacy expert and owner of Wealthology who motivates and inspires
young students and professionals to take control of their personal finances so they can live the lives they want and deserve said; Ruchika Tulshyan, an award-winning author, journalist, and international speaker, who advises organizations on diversity and inclusion strategy and communications through her company Candour; and Jenny Dorsey, a professional chef, author, Serious Eats columnist, and artist specializing in multi-platform storytelling fusing food with social good. She leads a non-profit culinary production studio, Studio ATAO, and is the co-host of Why Food? podcast on Heritage Radio Network.
Meggie Palmer, Founder of PepTalkHer; Stacy Bernal, Speaker, Writer and Personal Development Coach; Melody Garcia, Founder of UNICEF Unite Orlando, Multi-Media Global Influencer, Author; and Rebecca Cafiero, Founder of Elevate Your Life Project, Business and Branding Coach complete the initial list of speakers.
"Too often, I hear it's a "pipeline" problem – where people claim to be unable to find women leading as experts. That's what's so amazing about KeyNote. With this resource, there's literally no excuse to have homogenous speakers at your events! In the long run, and with the incredible work done by KeyNote, I hope it will be completely normalized to see diversity in speakers and leaders across the globe," said Tulshyan who writes regularly for publications including Harvard Business Review, Forbes and The Seattle Times and had been in the Thinkers "On the Radar" list, a global community of influential management thinkers to watch.