A great motivational speaker is confident, empathetic, a good storyteller, and able to connect with an audience.
There are many inspirational female speakers who leave their marks on captivated audiences, and below we’ll introduce a few of the best to get you fired up.
1. Felecia Hatcher
Hatcher is a self-admitted “’C’ student in high school who created her own luck.” She’s the co-founder of the Center for Black Innovation (one of Fast Company’s 2021 most innovative companies), and her motivational speeches center around stepping into your power, pushing back against limiting beliefs, and uses failure as a motivation for business success.
She was honored at the White House as one of 2011’s Empact100 Entrepreneurs Under 30 and the author of five books. She uses failure as a motivation for business success.
“We have everything that we need in order to be successful.” -Felecia Hatcher
2. Terri Trespicio
Trespicio served as a senior editor and radio host at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia for nearly 10 years. Currently, she’s a stand-up comic performing at clubs in New York City, a writer, a branding consultant, and national speaker. She believes focus and success help create passion and helps people identify and articulate their ideas to become more powerful contributors and leaders.
3. Sylvia Baffour
Can you imagine cheating death and surviving an attack by an orangutan in Cameroon? Baffour has lived it. Following the tragic death of her father, she found the courage to leave her stable job and become a speaker, trainer, and executive coach. She uses courage as a weapon to live a more fulfilled life and, as President of Baffour International LCC, she helps organizations thrive and succeed.
Baffour has delivered keynotes on how leaders can use emotional intelligence to inspire and influence and the importance of a healthy work culture and ranked among the top 18 speakers at the world championship for public speaking, which began with 35,000 contestants from 126 countries.
4. Zain Asher
Raised in a single parent home after her father was killed in a car accident when she was five years old, Asher currently works as a business correspondent at CNN International, where she ensures that every continent gets an equal seat at the global table.
Life has taught her that hard work, talent, and brains are not the only key to success — Asher recommends trusting your struggle. Oh, and fun fact, her brother, Chiwetel Ejiofor, got a Best Actor Oscar nomination for 12 Years A Slave in 2014.
“Most people wait until they get the call for a job interview before they begin to prepare … my brother taught me to prepare, well before you get that call.” -Zain Asher
5. Christine Hassler
Hassler worked as a Hollywood agent until 25, when she experienced a quarter-life crisis after losing her job. She went on to earn her master’s degree in spiritual psychology and is now a speaker obsessed with human optimization and helping people dig deep to discover who they are and what they want. She also identified and trademarked the phenomenon “Expectation Hangovers”.
6. Mel Robbins
Robbins started her career as a criminal defense attorney and went on to launch and sell a retail and internet technology company. Robbins is an author, founder, and CEO of female-led 143 Studios, Inc. As a keynote speaker and motivational podcaster, she discusses tops from the value of communication to how the rise of the selfie relates to developing and managing teams. She also shares insight into the tools people need to create the life they want.
7. Dr. Paula Stone Williams
Dr. Paula Stone Williams was once the CEO of a large religious non-profit organization until she was fired after coming out as a transgender woman. She uses her life experience to discuss the importance of gender equality and LGBTQ+ advocacy and sheds light on the gendered landscape. She’s still in touch with her faith, albeit in a different way, as Pastor of Preaching and Worship Ministries at Left Hand Church, in Longmont, Colorado.
“My father is 93 years old and he’s willing to try … One man willing to give up his power, because he knew what he knew: that he loved his child. And he was willing to do whatever it takes to honor the journey of another.” -Paula Stone Williams
8. Oprah Winfrey
Born in rural Mississippi in 1954, Oprah has lived her life out loud. At 19, she became the youngest news anchor and the first Black female news anchor for Nashville’s WLAC-TV — giving everyone a glimpse of what was to come.
Nowadays, she’s best known for the trailblazing Oprah Winfrey Show than ran for 25 years. She’s a well-known media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist. She views failure as necessary nudges that move you in the right direction and shares motivational advice with global listeners. She’s been honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, received honorary doctorates from Duke and Harvard University, inducted into the National Women’s hall of fame, and received numerous TV awards.
9. Casey Brown
Brown created a business that helps companies improve profits through better pricing, get paid what they’re worth, and increase profitability. She’s fluent in Spanish and holds a U.S. Patent for light bulb technology. She believes if you better communicate your value, you can get paid for your excellence.
10. Susan Robinson
Self-described as “partially sighted,” Robinson had to give up her dream of being an orthopedic surgeon. Visually impaired, she landed a career in organizational leadership and, when speaking, uses humor to shed light on serious issues and address difficult topics with openness.
She believes relying on your best strengths yield tremendous outcomes, aims to challenge preconceived obstacles, and says one’s differentiators as competitive growth potential regardless of their packaging. She’s also an excellent tango dancer.
<p>”I hate the word disabled when it’s used to describe people. It detonates a mindset of less than that utterly disregards capacity, ability, potential, instead prioritizing brokeness and lack.<em>-Susan Robinson</em></p>
11. Faith Jegede Cole
Cole is a writer and speaker who draws on her experiences growing up with two autistic brothers to tell stories and shift mindsets. She believes those who are not ordinary are actually extraordinary and says her brothers gave her a deeper understanding of the world and human nature.
She’s currently pursuing a Ph.D. in communication and studying the effects of relationship and relationship between online visibility and online vulnerability.
12. Bozoma Saint John
Bozoma Saint John started at Spike Lee’s agency Spike DDB in 2000 and has only continued and excelled in her marketing career, emphasized by her induction into the American Marketing Association Hall of Fame in 2022.
Harvard University turned one of her motivational speeches into a program called Anatomy of a Badass, which teaches people how to succeed even while feeling like an outsider. The insight she shares inspires people to dig deep and unleash their potential, and she also advocates for diversity, inclusion, and gender equality.
13. Jane Fonda
Fonda earned two Best Actress Oscars, an Emmy, and a Tony Award nomination. She revolutionized the fitness industry in the 1980s with an all-time top-grossing home video. She’s also dedicated her life to activism and has spent most of her life fighting for what she believes in, from climate change to civil rights to gender equality. (She’s even been arrested during protests).
Whether it’s her keynote speeches or her words shared at political demonstrations, she shares inspiring words with others to motivate and inspire people into action.
14. Amy Purdy
Amy Purdy is a professional snowboarder and three-time paralympic medalist, despite losing both her legs below the knee to meningitis. She rebuilt her life after asking herself, “If my life was a book … how would I want this story to end?”
As a motivational speaker, she shares inspiring messages on overcoming obstacles and controlling our limits without societal pressure. She’s participated in two legs of The Amazing Race and got second place on Dancing With The Stars.
15. Iyanla Vanzant
Iyanla Vanzant is the author of 15 books, and her life trajectory that began in Brooklyn landed her an Emmy Award. Vanzant embodies a no-nonsense approach in her message and teaching style, and she inspires people along their journeys of self discover by sharing insight into creating the relationships of your dreams.
“I matter, and how I show up in the room matters.” -Iyanla Vanzant
16. Vanessa Van Edwards
Van Edwards is lead investigator at Science of People, where she has developed a science-based framework for understanding and communicating with different personalities. She uses researched-backed advice to teach communication strategies that apply to all aspects of life because, as she says, there are no downsides to being a better communicator. Check out her talk below on how to talk to anyone.
17. Maysoon Zayid
A self-described “stand-up comedian who can’t stand up,” Zayid is co-founder of the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival and an advocate for people with disabilities. She’s just as inspirational as she is funny, evidenced by her Disco Dialing service, where people can pay her to make phone calls they’re dreading — “I can break hearts, air grievances, be a hype-woman, or sing happy birthday in multiple languages.” Please note that she is not responsible for any repercussions.
Below, Zayid shares her perspective on casting disabled actors and how that translates to inclusivity elsewhere.
“Disability is as visual as race. If a wheelchair user can’t play Beyonce, then Beyonce can’t play a wheelchair user.” -Maysoon Zayid
18. Kenyona Matthews
Matthews is a diversity trainer who believes we must improve diversity and inclusion. She challenges, “Diversity will always give us space in the room. But it leaves no room for our thoughts and our ways of life. Inclusion will change our rooms. Inclusion will make sure we all have a seat and a voice … once you hear the voice, you have to act to make some changes. That’s inclusion. That’s what matters.”
“Diversity to me is kind of like a fruit platter. All of the parts are present, all are represented. But they’re kept separate. They’re not involved in any meaningful way. It looks cute, it looks good, but it’s superficial.” -Kenyona Matthews
She brings awareness to societal issues, and champions diversity and inclusion, team building, and conflict resolution.
19. Sarah Kay
A performing poet since she was 14 years old, Sarah Kay is the founder of Project VOICE, an organization that uses spoken word poetry as a literacy and empowerment tool. In 2022 she was named New Arizona Fellow at New America.
“This isn’t my first time here, this isn’t my last time here, these aren’t the last words I’ll share, but just in case, I’m trying my hardest to get it right this time around.” -Sarah Kay
There are many well-known and lesser-known female motivational speakers out there. The ones listed here embody the skills needed to be considered a great motivational speaker, no matter the gender.