Where are the most powerful women speaking?

January 25, 2011

Where are the most powerful women speaking?

 Yesterday we released our analysis on where industry-leading CEOs and the most powerful women in business invested their time speaking in 2010. Reputations can be shaped at such top-tier events and company stories can travel the world, if properly socialized. We used to depend on media coverage to get the message out about a speaking platform but with social media at our fingertips today, a speech before 50 people can travel fast to many more influential people than ever imagined. If companies can properly distribute their executives’ speech-making online, they can now realize an even healthier ROI for their executives’ time than ever before. And let’s not forget how much time, resources and energy goes into just one speech or presentation. It is never a walk in the park!
I am going to blog backwards about our findings by starting with what we learned about the most powerful women in business first and get to the industry-leading CEOs later this week.  Like we had in grade school, today is backwards day.

I am quite pleased that we decided to look at the most powerful women in business because this is a small, exclusive club that demands further research in the communications field. Greater demand for female leaders was recently underscored when we learned that the World Economic Forum now requests that 20 percent of this year’s strategic partnership delegates be female. That polite request is sure making the rounds because I see it popping up all over. Despite the small sample size of these most powerful women (alas!), we did learn some interesting trends about what they’ve been doing on the speaking circuit over the past 12 months. And they’ve been busy. Here are some snippets from our analysis:

  • This elite group of powerful business women was extremely active on the speaking circuit in 2010. A large eight out of 10 (82 percent) spoke at one or more events in 2010.
  • In addition, the average number of events that each woman spoke at in 2010 was 3.2 events, with 11 women having spoken at five or more events.
  • The leading speaking forums in 2010 for the most powerful women executives included the World Economic Forum, Fortune Brainstorm: Tech, the Women’s Conference (hosted by former California First Lady Maria Shriver and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger), Daily Beast’s Women in the World, and not surprisingly, Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit (although not everyone who makes the list is a speaker). However, there was also a wide range of other types of conferences where top women in business spoke such as Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) Annual Conference, Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) Board of Boards, Milken Institute Global Conference, and The Wall Street Journal CEO Council. Micho Spring, our chair of the Global Corporate practice at Weber Shandwick said: “The vast majority of these women leaders are taking their communications and storytelling roles seriously. There are not only many women’s conferences for female leaders, but many other non-gender specific platforms as well.” 
  • Leading women executives are out in force.  This is quite a broad range which shows that there is demand for these top executives. The types of conferences can be categorized as follows:
Types of Speaking Engagement Venues Most Powerful Women in Business Spoke in 2010 
Industry Events (50%)
Women’s Leadership Events (43%)
Academic Events (40%)
Five-Star* Events (35%)
Function-Specific (18%)  (i.e., ANA Masters of Marketing, NACD Directorship Forum)



Just as rankings are growing leaps and bounds every year, I see the executive conference business expanding even further.  Companies are shaking off the economic woes from the past two years and getting back on the trail to differentiate their companies, narrate their responsibility and possibly turn back the anti-business wave that has beset so many. Conferences have an untapped way of  validating companies by tacitly endorsing that their executives have something to say that is meaningful and forward-looking about our collective futures. And women execs are clearly doing their part as well.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of corporate and CEO reputations.

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