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Pictured: Ruby Newell-Legner, CSP, 2015-16 President, National Speakers Association








Understanding the unique needs of women can boost your business

WHAT WOMEN WANT Frances RĂ­os, shown in her signature orange, advocates connecting with women audiences on a deeper level.


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o you connect deeply with your female audience members? Are your programs free of conscious and unconscious biases? According to one recent study, 91 percent of women say advertisers don’t understand them. There’s a good chance you don’t either. I transformed my speaking business by creating an information and data-gathering tool that allows me to connect with women on a more personal level, and by creating educational programs that address the particular needs of women who want to grow professionally. Plus, I learned to serve my corporate clients by helping them position themselves as women’s advocates. During a special breakout session for women at the 2014 NSA Convention, a group of female colleagues expressed the need for more opportunities and a stronger presence for women speakers. I was experiencing the same situation in Puerto Rico, where I am the only NSA member, and where the majority of keynote speakers are men. Along with the lack of women keynote speakers hired, I experienced firsthand that it was harder for women to reach top leadership positions when I worked as a spokeswoman for Fortune 100 companies in Puerto Rico and the United States. This is not news. Internet searches for topics like “break the glass ceiling” or “opportunities for women” produce endless lists of links. At the CLevel among Fortune 500 companies, only 25 positions are held by women (5 percent), and in Puerto Rico among the 400 top local companies, it’s only 6 percent, according to the 2014 Caribbean Business’ Book of Lists.

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Boardroom gender imbalance can be attributed to a combination of the “unbreakable boys’ club,” the need for more rounded business experience among women, as well as conscious and unconscious biases, among other factors. My reality dovetailed with what my fellow female NSA colleagues were experiencing, and this gave me a green light to innovate and lead. My goal was to create a business model that would help increase the numbers of women included in organizations at high levels of leadership—and of female keynote speakers.

Inclusion Leads to Better Financial Results Companies are noticing the correlation between female leadership and financial results. Studies demonstrate that companies with more women in senior management and on their boards of directors see better returns on their investments than those with fewer women. Organizations of all sizes in every type of industry are noticing that to be more successful at understanding their clients’ needs, the top leadership’s profile must match the customer’s profile. And it makes business sense. Studies conducted in the United States point out that: • Women account for 85 percent of all consumer purchases from automobiles to health care. (Mindshare/Ogilvy & Mather) • 62 percent of women business owners question whether the companies they buy from understand

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Ríos and Holly Duckworth, CAE, CMP, prepare for Women Who Lead Summit. their needs as business owners. (Entrepreneur Tracking Study) • Only 28 percent of women who participated in the W Certified Company™ survey indicated that their organizations utilize other women-owned companies. • 50 percent of products typically marketed to men are purchased by women. (Business Insider) • 70 percent of women say their companies don’t provide skills development in the areas of conscious and unconscious bias. (W Certified Company) Deloitte learned the hard way. In the Harvard Business Review, they explained how hard they prepared for new business presentations, including the pitch, the slide deck and rehearsal. But their presentations did not allow them to build sufficient rapport with prospects to get the business. Why? Half of the attendees at those new business presentations were women.

Women’s decision-making processes and collaboration styles are different. They pay attention to an array of factors that men generally don’t. Deloitte reshuffled their new business teams and taught men how to sell to women. As speakers, we have the same challenges in connecting with women who are meeting planners, top executives and audience members. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 73 million working women—47 percent of the general workforce. If this segment has different priorities and work styles, it makes sense to re-examine our selling and speaking strategies to ensure we’re connecting and closing. At a beginning-of-the-year meeting at a Fortune company where I worked as a top executive, we invited a major international speaker from NSA to talk about how teamwork leads to great customer service. Our expectations were as high as his price tag. But 10 minutes into his keynote, the audience disconnected. That’s because 99 percent of the examples in his speech were about baseball and basketball. He was energetic and articulate, but his stories alienated the 75 percent female audience. The vast majority of keynote speakers hired in Puerto Rico and other countries where I do business are men. Every week I get dozens of event promotions from trade organizations; nine out of 10 programs include only men. Is it because there are no women leaders? Or is it because organizers don’t make a conscious effort to reserve spots for women leaders?

Unique Solutions for Unique Needs Based on my personal experiences as an executive and keynote speaker, I developed distinctive solutions to promote women’s leadership, including: • Offering educational programs based on the needs of executives and business women to reach their professional goals. • Helping organizations make conscious efforts to balance the ratio between male and female speakers and top-tier leaders. • Creating a platform exclusively for women speakers. In 2013, I created the Women Who Lead Summit, a one-day program for top executives and business women. Female executives and “WomenPreneurs” want to attain their professional goals just as

men do, but with a different twist. Women want to learn best global business practices that they can apply according to their unique business preferences. The Women Who Lead Summit offers a unique learning experience. We have brought in WomenPreneurs like Margareth Henriquez, global CEO of Krug, one of the most luxurious champagnes in the world. This invitation-only event allows women to connect with other leaders, and gives then the opportunity to talk openly about their particular needs, aspirations and business styles. Following Cavett Robert’s idea of “let’s just build a bigger pie!” we answered the concerns of my speaker colleagues by reserving spaces for star NSA speakers. For the past two years, recognized NSA speakers like Holly Duckworth, Linda Swindling and Neen James have inspired Hispanic women at the Women Who Lead Summit.


hy did these speakers dare to present in English in a Spanishspeaking country? Executive women speak English—the language of global business, and Hispanic women are an important market. According to Nielsen: “Hispanic women are gaining prominence in the U.S. and are becoming a strong influence on the mainstream economy. With 52 million in the U.S. population, Hispanics collectively have an impressive buying power of $1.2 trillion, and women are the ones in the driver’s seat.”

Leaders Take Risks While searching the Internet for images related to phrases like “business risk takers,” the results included mostly pictures of men like Donald Trump, Bill Gates and Richard Branson. Only two women were regularly included: Oprah and Martha Stewart. This outcome disappointed me as I consider myself a business risk taker. I knew that creating a summit exclusively for women wasn’t enough to increase women’s inclusion and help companies be more conscious about gender balance. So I created a program to publicly recognize corporations that demonstrate a commitment to women’s development and inclusion while inspiring others to follow. The W Certified Company—Leading the way for women’s inclusion™ was born as an innovative survey tool to help companies evaluate how their female employees feel about their employer’s commitment to women. Skeptics assured me that no company would participate in the survey, that it was too risky. “I bet only five companies will register,” I was told. International businesses are clearly interested in gender issues. Thirty companies—more than half with a global presence—enrolled, and 23 ended up being certified. Walmart, Microsoft, Starbucks, Unilever, T-Mobile, Ethicon and General Electric, among many others, were recognized for their inclusion efforts. We met with every company and asked why they chose to participate. Company presidents and human resources executives pointed out two key factors as motivators to enroll: The uniqueness of the diagnostic tool and the trust they had in me. Those conversations inspired me to extend the pro-

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VIEWS FROM WOMEN WHO LEAD “What an incredible experience to speak to an audience comprised of women who are eager for information on how to succeed as a professional woman. On stage there were no speakers using stereotypical sports analogies with a slight, respectful mention about a mother or wife whose contribution consists of baking, volunteering and/or raising kids. Instead, powerful and successful women were positioned to discuss real business issues in a distinguished, respectful and humorous format.”

“When women leaders gather, they create amazing impact. Their desire to nurture and grow future leaders, combined with their commitment to the multiple roles they manage at work, at home and in their community, make them a powerful force. Our platforms need more exceptional, powerful female speakers to be role models for us as we grow our influence and impact our audiences and our industry.” 

“As a speaker and participant in the Women Who Lead Summit, you release perceptions of being different from every other woman in the room. Participants come together around the common bond of being visionary women and making those visions become a reality for the good of humankind.” —Holly Duckworth, CAE, CMP

—Neen James, MBA, CSP

—Linda Swindling, JD, CSP

gram internationally to support women leaders’ efforts to reach their professional pinnacles around the world. Globally, companies are measured by their economic results, employee engagement and corporate social responsibility. The W Certified Company offers businesses a way to measure and be recognized for their initiatives, investments and commitment to the growth of women, internally and externally. The uniqueness of the program would not have been recognized without the trust companies placed in my organization and me. Throughout my 20-year career as a top executive and business woman, I have always practiced six key principles to create long-lasting business relationships: being the best I can be, providing real solutions, honoring my promises, being consistent, breathing creativity and having a positive impact on as many people as possible—the same values many speakers promote during presentations and workshops on leadership and team building.

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The Skipping Stone Effect As a kid, stone skipping was a typical pastime. The goal: to get the stone to jump as many times and go as far as possible. When you are a true leader, your message and efforts have to touch as many lives as possible and travel far. Learning the needs of business and executive women at a deep level through the Women Who Lead Summit and the W Certified Company allows me to develop stronger connections at different levels with companies and their female employees, vendors and clients. I create ties with human resources departments to support their efforts to attract, hire and retain the best female talent. And they need speakers who can share specific strategies with the women in their networks based on what they need to grow in the corporate world. How good are you at stone skipping with your female clients? Do you connect with your female audiences in a

Women Who Lead: Neen James, MBA, CSP, Frances Ríos and Linda Swindling, JD, CSP. deep and meaningful way? Is your message touching as many lives as possible and traveling as far as it can? Do you take risks to create new business models that will allow you to become a thought leader within the women’s business segment? Half the world wants to know. Frances Ríos is known as “the communication surgeon.” With her keynotes and programs, she helps women reach their professional pinnacle, while helping companies become women’s advocates. Learn more at www. FrancesRí

Frances Ríos: What Women Want, NSA magazine  
Frances Ríos: What Women Want, NSA magazine  

Do you connect deeply with your female members? Are your programs free of conscious and unconscious biases? According to one recent study, 9...