SHE Should Talk At TED: 5 Ways to Get Started

by cv harquail on December 7, 2010

Thanks so much to you readers who got in touch with me to share your ideas about a diversity & inclusion action plan for TED. I had the chance to fold some of these ideas into a live conversation with two of my favorite NYC feminists, Dr. Debra Condren and Gloria Feldt, and together we came up with these 5 possible Action Steps to share with you readers, and with the TEDWomen /TEDx636_11thAve follow-up round table being sponsored by NYWSE. While these suggestions are specific to TED, the general idea behind each step is applicable to any organization.

1. Clarify goals: Gender Parity with Proportional Representation at the next TED, and at every TED & TEDx thereafter.

The goal that we’re working for, at least in the efforts focused on TED per se, is to move to full Gender Parity with Proportional Representation in the next TED conference. As Marie Wilson of The White House Project is known to say, “You can’t be it if you can’t see it.” We need to help people see women as TED speakers and opinion leaders with big ideas, because we are sure that women have at least half the big ideas in this world. But we’re so accustomed to not having that recognized that we have not been helping ourselves to our fair share.

2. Set Up “SHE Should Talk At TED” campaign.

A “SHE Should Talk at TED” campaign will help identify more women as potential speakers at TED and TEDx. So far, the women who have spoken at TEDs have been fabulous … and there are more women out there who also have fabulous big ideas.

“SHE Should Talk At TED” is a tactic for raising awareness of the broad array of women whose ideas are so worthy that we want to see them presented at TED. A first step is to make each of these women more visible by something as simple as tweeting her name and #SheTalksTED #SHETalkTED. You can also come and join our Facebook group as we get that up and going

We can make these women visible by sharing a button each one can put on her blog or twitter page. And, we can tell each other that we think each others’ ideas are worth sharing, by sending the button to our female colleagues who “Should Talk At TED”. (The image at the top is an early draft– stay tuned for the real thing!)

3. Invite the curators at TED to meet with a group of advocates for Gender Parity…

… to share suggestions and action steps that TED can take not only to get gender parity immediately, but also to build in a concern for parity and inclusion into all TED activities.

These action steps could included re-examining selection criteria and making a public commitment to inclusion. TED might also look to its own licensees for ideas, and incorporate the inclusion tactics of those TEDx conferences that have gotten closer to gender parity in their presenter line-ups. While we understand that TED is necessarily based on judgment calls about attendees, speakers, and topics, we are certain that a) there are plenty of women who qualify on all fronts and b) gender parity and inclusion of other diversities will have the added benefit of making TED even better and its ideas even more expansive.

4. Plan ahead for a Parity Party.

The next TED conference is not far off. We can start planning now to celebrate TED’s achievement of gender parity at events to be held right after the next TED conference.

5. Stay Open for More Ideas

More ideas, and more specific tactics for Gender Parity at TED, will surely be generated at the NYWSE Round-table: Building on TED & the TEDWomen Conference: How can _we_ make conferences more inclusive spaces?

We anticipate, too, that others might want to look past TED and work toward gender parity and conference inclusion in other ways. For example, some may decide to create an explicit alternative to TED, a conference about ideas worth sharing that is build on the premise that good ideas can come from anyone, and that good ideas can be shared not only in presentations but also in non-hierarchical, ‘sage from the stage’ formats.

We plan to support each other in different initiatives with the same big goal— getting women’s ideas out to be shared.

Check out the SHE Should Talk at TED facebook page— I’ll keep you posted here, too.


virginia Yonkers December 8, 2010 at 8:50 pm

All great ideas. To expand on idea #2, you should include posting speeches, presentations, and/or interviews on Youtube as a large part of TED is the presentation as well as the ideas themselves.

Also, there should perhaps be some articulation of different themes that would be more inclusive of women and other underrepresented populations. I use the TED speeches in my communication class and have noticed that there is a strong emphasis on science, technology, and economics. I wonder if there were topics such as diplomacy, advocacy, lifestyles, and entrepreneurship if there would be more women with big ideas.

cv harquail December 10, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Hi Virginia-
Great point– inclusivity and gender parity should extend from the stage to the web page, so that women are fully and equally represented there. Of course, it might take a bit longer to get to gender parity inthe TED talks that are online– after all, only fewer than 30% of all TED talks have been by women so far. That said, since the lineups of TEDx conferences are often more diverse than on TED (main), there are many talks by women from TEDx events that could be put on line.

One change that needs to be thoughtfully considered is how, whether, and how far TED should expand its topic domain. It started as “Technology, Entertainment, and Design” (hence, the concentration that you see) but I haven’t seen a clear statement of topics or subject domains they are including and excluding. They need to have their focus, topically, as they define it, and simply be sure not to unconsciously exclude women, men on color, and speakers from less-privileged groups.

Andrea Learned December 9, 2010 at 9:53 am

I know this is implied in #3, but – to clarify.. we may want to make part of building advocacy for TED (and all conferences) about identifying and signing on men, as well as women, who are TED alums or likely future TED presenters as we make the case. To have a gender parity party (love it!), we have to be very careful to approach it as such – so that it doesn’t become women vs. TED under any definition. Great ideas, all, CV! Glad to see this rally taking shape!

cv harquail December 10, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Andrea, thank you for clarifying– indeed, men are included in the call for more diversity — we want gender parity, yes, and we also want speakers drawn from a range of social groups, not just the most privileged ones.

Also, it’s important to keep clear that the message is not ‘gender parity advocates are fighting TED’ but rather ‘gender parity advocates are asking TED to be all it can be’. cv

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