I like to surprise audiences, upending conventional wisdom and inviting them to be inspired with me, instead of by me. But I am not content with inspiration. My mission is to equip people with the tools to be great at changing their workplaces and the world. I draw on a rich repository of global stories that are at turns funny, surprising, and thought-provoking. My experiences across the corporate, start-up, non-profit, and advocacy worlds give me a unique perspective on leadership, innovation, and culture. 

Recent and upcoming speaking gigs

  • Keynote, "Being Human At Work" / Webdagene / Oslo / October 2017
  • Keynote, "Building Bridges In A Divided Time" / Design Futures Leadership Forum / Minneapolis, MN / May 2017
  • Workshop, "Creating a Breastfeeding-Supportive Culture at Work" / UCSF / San Francisco, CA / May 2017
  • Keynote, "Workplace Balance And The War On Families" / ICAN Women's Leadership Conference / Omaha, NE / April 2017
  • Keynote / SXSW / Austin, TX / March 2017


My 2017 keynote at SXSW focused on building bridges in an uncommonly divided time, touching on paid family leave, legislation targeting LGBT and transgender people, and the time I snuck into Kyrgystan to buy a hat.


My TED talk on the case for paid parental leave has been viewed almost 1.5 million times. It has been featured on NPR, TIME.com (as one of 10 TED Talks That Will Help You Be a Better Parent), Goop, and The Huffington Post. It was a TED.com "talk of the day" in 2015.


"It was the kind of speech that brought the crowd to its feet for a standing ovation - twice...One testament to the effectiveness of Shortall’s message was the size of the ballroom crowd. South by Southwest attendees come from all over the world, and aren’t typically interested in state-level politics. But by the end of her talk, nearly every seat was taken, which is especially noteworthy given that Vice President Joe Biden held the very next speaker slot in a different ballroom." (Austin American-Statesman, 3/12/17)

"I gotta say, the Jessica Shortall speech, in terms of pure speech-making talent, was one of the best I've ever seen at SXSW." (Lilly Rockwell, tech reporter for the Austin American-Statesman)

"Jessica connected with her audience immediately, putting them at ease by telling some brazen truths about herself. She has a unique ability to impress you while making you feel like you can completely relate to her. She is truly a world-class speaker." (Tamra Rushing, VP of Marketing, CareFusion)

“Jessica brought real passion to the intersection of business results and social impact. In a small, interactive session of senior women, Jessica really drew them in for an engaging, dynamic conversation.” (Alison Dew, VP Global Marketing, Dell)

"Jessica did exactly what we wanted to achieve, which was to inspire people to do more. And she did it so eloquently! She should be speaking all over the world." (Julie Shannan, Deputy Director, GirlStart)

"Jessica has a fantastic grasp of her subject matter, drawing from personal and global examples. And she entertained us all with her irreverent style, gripping, funny anecdotes and examples, and refreshingly honest approach." (Lee Walker, Senior Fellow, University of Texas - Austin)

"Wonderful speaker...just perfect; great message and very passionate." (Corporate employee)

"Brilliant. I could have listened to you for another couple of hours." (TEDx attendee)

"Thank you...that was exactly what I needed my daughter to hear." (Parent, Laurel School, after commencement address)


I am available to speak on:

  • Building bridges and empathy in a divided time
  • Social entrepreneurship, smart philanthropy, and Corporate Social Responsibility
  • The hard work of doing good well
  • Women in business and working motherhood
  • Breaking the gendered earner/caregiver paradigm
  • The business case for LGBT equality
  • Being human at work
  • The reality of returning to work after baby

I work independently and with BigSpeak speakers' bureau.