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TED’s response to claims of sexual harassment 

Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED

We believe in ideas worth spreading. One of those ideas is that all humans are entitled to equal consideration and respect.

The Washington Post recently reported that TED has grappled with sexual harassment at its conferences and in the workplace. We would like to address that article here.

At the TED2017 conference in Vancouver, we were informed privately that four women attendees experienced sexual harassment, and another experienced aggressive behavior from male attendees.

We were alarmed by what we heard and immediately conducted full investigations to understand the context and impact of what had happened.

As a result, one man was asked to leave the conference immediately, and a second barred. These two men were the source of the five complaints, and will not return to TED.

The main TED conference attracts some 2,000 attendees, and in recent years we have been successful in increasing the percentage of women attending from about 25% to 40%. By and large, the vast majority of attendees report a wonderful experience.

But incidents do happen.

Historically, when we’ve heard that an attendee has experienced conduct that made them uncomfortable or worse, we have always investigated and done our best to resolve.

But this past year’s experience motivated us to do far more to strengthen our existing procedures. With input from experts, we put even more robust and specific anti-harassment policies and systems in place in summer 2017:

  • Making clear every attendee is aware of our code of conduct, and that violation of it would mean removal from the event.
  • Publicizing the means by which attendees can report problems.

We are determined to continue to increase the number of women who come to TED and to ensure that the conference experience is one where all attendees feel safe and respected.

The Washington Post article also mentioned two incidents alleged to have taken place at our New York-based office over the past four years. These were fully investigated at the time, and we took the claims very seriously. For the sake of the individuals mentioned, we don’t think it’s appropriate to address them in public.

We all have a strong belief in our mission and a deep respect for the perspectives and values our co-workers bring to the organization. 

We will use this story as motivation to ensure that inclusion remains at the core of our conference experience and workplace culture.