Dana Rubin is a speechwriter, message strategist and speaking coach dedicated to bringing women’s voices to the fore. Her company Speaking While Female encompasses both a coaching aspect and the world’s largest online collection of women’s speeches. For twenty years, Rubin has helped women in business, education, non-profits and the public sphere find their voice and counts high profile individuals like Martha Stewart as well as executives at Deloitte, PepsiCo, and CBS amongst her clients. Her work as a speech coach funds The Speaking While Female Speech Bank, an online collection of women’s speeches from across globe and throughout history. Rubin hopes that this free digital collection will help bring women’s voices, which have traditionally been overlooked, into the conversation. Today the Irvington, New York-based entrepreneur is figuring out how to balance both sides of her business and while continuing to elevate women in the world.
Rubin’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
What was your reason for starting your business?
I saw a lack of representation of women’s voices, ideas, insights, and intellectual firepower in the public square, i.e. at conferences and other high-level events, in the media, in op-eds and editorials, in criticism — across the board there were simply too few women’s voices!
I’m a speaker and trainer, and I curate the world’s largest collection of women’s speeches, the SpeakingWhileFemale.co Speech Bank. Through my SpeakingWhileFemale.biz consultancy, I coach women to put their expertise into the public square by leading workshops in speaking, storytelling, thought leadership and self advocacy. I speak on “The Secret History of Women’s Speech” to corporate, nonprofit and professional organizations — including the historical antipathy towards women’s speech and the critical need to diversify the voices in the public square in order to benefit from the ideas and insights of all people.
How do you define success?
I want to help shift the equation so that more women have the mindset and skillset to step up and share their expertise with the world. I am working towards a day when the ideas and insights of women (and gender non-binary individuals) are shared equally with their male counterparts.
Tell us about your biggest success to date.
The creation of The Speaking While Female Speech Bank — the world’s largest archive of women’s speeches, with 2500+ speeches by women from around the world and across the centuries. It’s free and accessible to everyone, and will always remain that way.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
From the start it’s been a challenge finding the right balance between devoting my time and resources to the pro bono aspect of my business (the women’s speech archive) and the revenue-generating aspect of my business (corporate training and talent workshops). Both parts are time-consuming and engrossing. It’s a tricky mix to balance and I’m still working on it!
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
I was happily living and working in London, UK — the death of my sister from cancer brought me back to the US to be closer to family, which led to a fundamental reorientation of my work.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Start speaking up early! Don’t wait until you’re more advanced in your career to master the mindset and skillset to be a strong public speaker. When you get “out there” early, you will become a better speaker — the more you do it, the better you become. And the better you become, the more you like it — so it’s a virtuous cycle. Your speaking skills will strengthen your profile as a leader and enhance your business prospects in just about every way.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
Learning something new usually does the trick. I am highly motivated by learning. I read a fascinating article, I watch a documentary, I watch YouTube and learn a new skill. It’s my strategy for getting out of my miserable head!
Who is your most important role model?
Since I was a girl I’ve been inspired by the feminist artist and educator Judy Chicago. Her Dinner Party installation (1974-79) at the Brooklyn Museum of Art presents 1,038 women in history, most of them overlooked and absent from the history books. Judy Chicago forges her own path, unimpeded by social expectations or stereotypes of what women should look like and how they should behave.