Live from TEDWomen

TEDWomen Fellows Speak Out

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From the wonderful TED Fellows blog, this report:

Fifteen outstanding TED Fellows were invited to attend TEDWomen, held in Washington, D.C, on December 7-8. What unique perspectives did these female filmmakers, scientists, artist-activists and more bring to this TED Conference? We asked each of them about their experiences as women and how women are reshaping the future. Here are some of their thoughts.

Who has been an inspirational female role model in your life?

Jessica Green (Engineer + biodiversity scientist): Maria Pallavicini.  She was founding Dean at the University of California, Merced – the most recently built UC. Weeks before my first day as an Assistant Professor in Biology, I found out I was pregnant with my second son. I had few female role models in academia with children, and I was concerned about the timing of my pregnancy, and how it would affect my productivity. I phoned Maria to tell her the “bad news.” Without missing a beat, she told me that this was “wonderful.” She said she had three daughters. She expressed that having children can be central to success if you embrace it. Maria’s leadership style is an inspiration to me.  

How does being a woman affect your perspective and your work?

Erika Bagnarello (Filmmaker): Being a woman, I’m way more demanding of myself, precisely because I’m a woman…there are so few women in my field, and it’s such a male-dominated culture that it makes me want to do the very best I can, always, so that there’s never a doubt that I can do my job properly.  So I think it’s helped the quality of my work a lot.

I’ve written a few screenplays that haven’t been filmed yet. But most of the main characters are women. And the ideas I like to present are usually told from a woman’s point of view. My stories have a lot to do with who I am, and the fact that I’m a woman, and that I’m from Costa Rica, is definitely going to show in a lot of my stories. It’s not the same the way a woman can tell a story than the way a man can tell a story. Usually when a woman tells a story it’s more inclusive of gender, and they have different sensibilities, different parts.

In your lifetime, what changes in women’s roles in your field have you witnessed?

Kate Nichols (Science artist): Growing up when I did, where I did, afforded me a great deal of flexibility in how I came to understand my identity. For example, I identify more strongly as an artist than as a woman. I think many women in my generation share in this, and we know that our freedom to do so has been hard won by women before us. In my experience, I haven’t found that my gender has come to bear on my career. And as far as the TED community goes, I have been embraced, supported and celebrated as a TED Fellow, as an artist, and as a woman.

What do you hope young girls will learn or emulate from your example?

Meklit Hadero (Singer + songwriter): When I think about all the Fellows and all the work they’re doing, the main spirit I get from it is that another world is possible. The unifying theme is that another world is possible, and that’s what I would hope that young girls and women would take from all of us.