Our announcement last week of TEDWomen has touched off some really vibrant conversations online. Some have embraced the idea; others have reservations. At TED, we’ve been reading with interest and weighing in on occasion. After reading a number of blog posts and articles, I thought I’d take a moment to weigh in here, and clarify a few things about our intent. (To introduce myself, I’m one of the producers of TEDWomen, and also the Executive Producer of TED Media.)
The first question many people raise is why we decided to launch TEDWomen. The idea for the conference was brought to us by Pat Mitchell (legendary journalist and president of the Paley Center). We loved the idea for its journalistic interest: Over the past few years, there’s been a flood of fascinating data from the worlds of education, microfinance and more — showing an essential link between investing in women and girls and economic growth, public health, political stability … This story is important, and we think it deserves to be further explored on the TED stage, in a rich, varied, thoughtful way. Read more about what we have planned (and why).
So the intent behind the conference is to seek out talks about women and girls (not just by them). As with every TED, the speaker program will include men and women, and also a few women & men presenting together. The program we’re envisioning is varied, surprising, diverse. Focused on ideas and innovations.
Now, I understand (after reading some insightful comments) that the launch of TEDWomen raises the question: Are we segregating women? The answer is “No.” We’re not launching TEDWomen instead of balancing out our speaker line-up. This is a “Yes, and” rather than an “either/or.” We generally have 30-40% women speakers at all TED events. Though this isn’t ideal, it’s improving, and we’re proud of that. If you look — for example — at the program for TEDGlobal (held last week in Oxford), you’ll find an extraordinary group of women, from Kiva co-founder Jessica Jackley to Half the Sky author Sheryl WuDunn to psycho-economist Sheena Iyengar to author Elif Shafak to neuro-technologist Tan Le to cognitive scientist Laurie Santos to musician/activist Annie Lennox. There were similar lineups at TED2010 and TEDIndia, and many more remarkable women booked for TED2011. We passionately strive for a balanced program in all our conferences, and will continue to!
So why launch TEDWomen? Because we wanted to have a long and thoughtful conversation. We’ve been discussing these new ideas about women at every TED, but we know there’s more to say. There are so many rich and varied stories looking at women through this lens: as change agents, intellectual innovators, idea champions — and we’re looking forward to exploring them.
We really appreciate the viewpoint of everyone who has weighed in — either with excitement or concerns. This dialog is important in helping us focus on the conversation ahead and refine our own message. We’re listening and responding, and we’re excited to continue the conversation … email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow us on Twitter @TEDWomen.