Teaching People How You Want to be Treated

Let’s say you’re a consultant and a speaker and you’re talking with someone in an organization who wants to engage you for a presentation. You say yes, they say great, you say your fee is $4,000 and they say they have no budget for speakers.

Gloria Feldt is a feminist activist and speaker and author of  No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change the Way We Think About Power. She responds to those who say they can’t pay her fee with this:

I am asked to speak constantly. And I love it. I'm very passionate and committed to this cause. And, I do charge for my speaking engagements. Just as you may have no budget for speakers, I have no budget if I am not paid to speak.

Gloria’s response demonstrates how she wants to be treated. Respected. Honored. And paid. And it’s not the end of the conversation, but the new beginning.

Because of the perplexing fact that many women’s organizations, even those prestigious ones we won’t name here, have a stated policy against paying their speakers, it is vital that we convey our dismay and look for ways to change the status quo.

For those of us who are working for the advancement of women in any capacity, it’s also imperative to identify the elephant in the living room:

Victoria and I might say, “I’d like you to consider revising your policy. How can we walk the talk if we, whose mission it is to train women how to negotiate in an effort to close the wage and leadership gaps, cannot open the door for ourselves? If we are to achieve equity in our lifetime, we need to model it at every opportunity, and so do you.”

It’s bold, imperative, and tells the world how you want to be treated, and how your bargaining partner should also want to be treated.

So let’s get practical. Here are some diagnostic questions that might help you move the conversation forward, equitably:

  • Would it be helpful to brainstorms way in which I can meet your needs and you might be able to meet mine?
  • What is your budget for this event?
  • How might we engage your donors or sponsors to hnor their commitment to you by carrying the expense for my talk?
  • If you could have me as your keynote as well as a breakout session, would that sweeten the pot for you and your sponsors?
  • What if you were to split the payment in two or three chunks, would that be helpful?

Where are you trading working for living for working for free?