While a picture is worth a thousand words, words have their own undeniable power. When you listen to a motivational speaker, for example, you’re watching words transform into art. While everyone has something worthwhile to say, few know how to wrap others in their emotional, actionable language. The top female motivational speakers demonstrate this again and again.
Inspiration matters not just for daily life, but also businesses. In fact, engaged employees perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave their companies. When employees feel motivated and connected, they’re more passionate about the work they do. This translates into all areas of life. Whether you’re a brand looking to boost your revenue or you’re simply looking to boost your know-how as a professional, look to the speakers who do this best.
Let’s face it—we can all use a bit of inspiration. We’ll highlight 20 female motivational speakers to follow this year. These speakers have proven experience affecting lives, making an impact, and delivering more than just “words.”
- Amy Purdy
- Arianna Huffington
- Brené Brown
- Brittany Hodak
- Dr. Bernice King
- Elizabeth Gilbert
- Elizabeth Smart
- Iyanla Vanzant
- Lizzie Velásquez
- Malala Yousafzai
- Marie Forleo
- Maysoon Zayid
- Mel Robbins
- Michelle Obama
- Monica Lewinsky
- Oprah Winfrey
- Paula Stone Williams
- Robyn Benincasa
- Serena Williams
- Terri Trespicio
- Unlock Your Potential
First, if you’re looking for a story about making the most of life’s challenges, look no further than Amy Purdy. After being diagnosed with Meningococcal Meningitis at age 19, she lost both of her legs below the knees. This experience sparked her into action. She turned to her creativity, passion for nature, and athleticism to become one of the top-ranked adaptive snowboarders in the world.
“If your life were a book and you were the author, how would you want your story to go? That’s the question that changed my life forever.”
Next, Arianna Huffington is no stranger to the world of business. As the co-founder of the Huffington Post and the current CEO of Thrive Global, she understands the power of hard work and dedication. Though she spent many years climbing the corporate ladder, she advocates for the balance of health, life, and career.
“Fearlessness is like a muscle. I know from my own life that the more I exercise it the more natural it becomes to not let my fears run me.”
If you’ve ever needed someone fighting in your corner, turn to Brené Brown. Everyone has a story to tell, but it’s up to you to own your story and your courage. Though she began her career as a research professor at the University of Houston, she turned her focus to writing. Now, Brené Brown is a New York Times bestselling author of well-known books like Dare to Lead and The Gift of Imperfection.
“We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.”
According to Brittany Hodak, the world is full of superfans. Brittany Hodak is a co-founder of The Superfan Company, a fan engagement brand that collaborated with brands like Walmart, Disney, Katy Perry, and more. In 2015, she was offered deals by the Sharks on ABC’s hit Shark Tank at a valuation of over $4 million.
In 2019, she left her company to follow her new passion: speaking and inspiring others. Today, she consults with companies of all shapes and sizes as part of the Experience.com expert team while continuing to speak.
“At the beginning of 2019, I asked myself, ‘What are my personal and professional goals for this year and for the next decade?’ Now, if an opportunity isn’t aligned with those goals, I say ‘no.’ While it meant walking away from some projects and clients I truly enjoyed, it freed up my time and energy to pursue the things that matter most.”
Dr. Bernice King
Next, Dr. Bernice King is the youngest child of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and she’s earned a reputation as a global thought leader. Dr. King acts as the current CEO of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.
She continues to advocate for social change, communication, and innovation through her mentorship, Leadership Academy and Community Talks. Dr. King speaks regularly, however, can be found completely for free on her Community Talks page.
“You will encounter misguided people from time to time. That’s part of life. The challenge is to educate them when you can, but always to keep your dignity and self-respect and persevere in your personal growth and development.”
You’re likely already familiar with Elizabeth Gilbert’s award-winning book Eat, Pray, Love, but this is only the beginning of her wide field of work. Though she got her start as a journalist, her most memorable work is in the form of memoirs about her own experiences. Beyond Eat, Pray, Love, she’s also known for Big Magic, a book that celebrates creativity in everyday life.
“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind.”
When it comes to perseverance, few know what it means to overcome challenges more than Elizabeth Smart. In 2002, days before her middle school graduation, 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her home in Utah and held captive for months.
Though her story is the stuff of nightmares, it only fueled Smart’s passion. Today, she is a strong advocate for victims of sexual assault. Aside from her work as a public speaker, Smart also shares stories of empowerment through her podcast, Smart Talks.
“Feeling sorry for yourself that’s only allowing them more control, more power, and to steal more of your life from you. Don’t you dare give them another second of your life.”
Next, Iyanla Vanzant is a well-known American speaker, lawyer, spiritual teacher, and TV personality. Today, she guides people of all backgrounds on a spiritual journey. Called Spiritual Spas, Vazant delivers 60 minutes of real talk on the first Thursday of the month. As someone with personal experience in grief, obstacles, and adversity, she guides others along the same path to greatness.
“If you are afraid to take a chance, take one anyway. What you don’t do can create the same regrets as the mistakes you make.”
Another female motivation speaker to follow this year is the unstoppable Lizzie Velásquez. This American speaker and activist was born with an extremely rare congenital disease. This syndrome prevents her from gaining body fat, resulting in extensive bullying.
Instead of letting this hold her back, she made her story one of celebration. Her YouTube channel has almost a million subscribers, and her talks have reached over 54 million. She inspires people everywhere to look beyond their appearances and define their own self-worth.
“I always say that creating positive change in the world starts with just one person: you. That’s why it is so important to learn to be the right kind of selfish.”
Few young people are as inspiring as Malala Yousafzai. Today, Malala Yousafazia is known as one of the leading activists in the fight for girls’ education as well as the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate. However, her start was far from easy. After speaking up about education equality, she was the target of a brutal attack in 2012 on her way home from school.
Instead of responding with fear, Yousafzai embraced her new position in the spotlight. With the help of her father, she created the Malala Fund to help give every girl the opportunity to choose her future.
“I raise up my voice not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard… We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.”
Another unshakable optimist is Marie Forleo. A well-known entrepreneur and author, Forleo inspires people to do something special. After finding herself frustrated with her corporate 9 to 5, she decided to start her digital empire with nothing other than her laptop.
Forleo now inspires others to do the same. Though you can catch her speaking engagements in person, she also distributes her motivational and creative content for free. Her free audio training called How to Get Anything You Want is about turning your dreams into a reality.
“Fear is excitement with the brakes on. It’s just energy. Fear can be instructive and directive. It’s a guide that’ll show you exactly where you have to go.”
Who said motivational speakers had to be serious all the time? Maysoon Zayid proves that comedy can be found even in the smallest of moments. As an actress, comedian, and writer, she is one of the producMuslimmuslem comedians, she paves the way for others.
“Comedy is free therapy. And if it’s done well, the audience and the comic take turns being the doctor as well as the patient.”
Of course, one of the most-booked speakers in the world would also be one of the best female motivational speakers to follow this year. With half a million students having already taken Mel Robbins’ online courses, she knows a thing or two about living life to the fullest. Though she might seem to have it all together, it wasn’t always this way. She figured out what was holding her back and shared her insights in her bestseller The High 5 Habit.
“Success is a numbers game. You are not going to win if you keep telling yourself to wait. The more often that you choose courage, the more likely you’ll succeed.”
While most people know Michelle Obama for her role as the First Lady and wife of President Barack Obama, she’s also a motivational speaker in her own right. Before becoming first lady, she was a lawyer, city administrator, and community-outreach worker. Today, she’s an advocate for healthy families, higher education, and women’s education across the globe.
“You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.”
A figure you might not expect to find on this female motivational speakers list is Monica Lewinsky. Known mostly for the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, she used her role in the limelight to speak out as an activist against cyberbullying. Often the target of notoriety and ridicule, she used her experiences to advocate for others and speak out against sexual harassment.
“Anyone who is suffering from shame and public humiliation needs to know one thing: You can survive it…you can insist on a different ending to your story.”
Of course, no compilation of female motivational speakers would be complete without Oprah Winfrey. Best known for her talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, her highly-rated TV show ran for a total of 25 impressive years. Though you can see Oprah speak on many stages, you don’t have to travel to hear her inspiring words. Her podcast, Super Soul, has almost 30k reviews on Apple Podcasts alone.
“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”
Paula Stone Williams
Featured by some of the top speaking platforms in the world like NPR and TED, Paula Stone Williams is a force to be reckoned with. Williams often seems like a walking contradiction. Though she’s an outspoken American pastoral counselor, she came out as a transgender woman in 2012. Since then, she’s spoken about gender equality, LGBTQ advocacy, and religious acceptance.
“To the women: … I want you to know, you are far more capable than you realize. You are more powerful than you know. And you reflect the best parts of what it means to be fully human.” and “To the guys: … I do understand. I never knew I had privilege, but I did. And so do you. What can you do? You can believe us? We might, we might have equality, but we don’t have equity. It is not a level playing field. it never has been. You can be part of the solution, by elevating us to equal footing. You uniquely have that power.”
Next, ranked amongst the top speakers in the world, Robyn Benincasa is a veteran San Diego firefighter, World Champion Adventure Racer, and a Guinness World Record holder. A member of America’s first all-female firefighter crew, she knows what it means to be a part of a strong, meaningful team. Today, she uses her personal experience to inspire others.
“Never let the pursuit of perfection hinder progress. It’s not always going to be pretty or the way you imagined it, but you go forward with a great attitude and do the best you can for as long as you can, with what you’ve got. Don’t be afraid to make a U-turn when necessary.”
Another athlete that undoubtedly is one of the best female motivational speakers to follow is Serena Williams. This professional tennis player has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles. However, Williams is just as inspiring off the tennis court as she is on it. Her philanthropy helps fund diverse businesses, and she’s become one of the most eye-catching icons of the fashion world.
“The success of every woman should be the inspiration to another. We should raise each other up. Make sure you’re very courageous. Be strong, be extremely kind, and above all be humble.”
Last but not least, Terri Trespicio knows the power of following your passion. While it’s easy to hold yourself back waiting for so-called inspiration, sometimes you need to lean into what makes you unique instead. Her TEDx Talk, “Stop Searching for Your Passion,” surpassed 7 million views, proving that creativity can be found in unexpected places.
“To live a life full of meaning and value, you don’t follow your passion, your passion follows you.”
Unlock Your Potential
With these female motivational speakers in mind, nothing can stop you. Whether you’re looking for a leader to book for your next event, or you want to widen your perspective, there’s enough inspiration to go around.
Though you can find lesser-known female motivational speakers out there who are just as noteworthy, these are the innovators changing the space for all. It’s not enough to talk the talk, these speakers also walk the walk.