TEDWomen 2013: Invented Here

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TEDxWomen: Finding Meaning in ‘The Space Between’

This weekend was truly a full-circle moment for TEDxWomen. We started our journey in Washington, DC, in 2010 in a partnership between The Paley Center for Media and the extraordinary TED conference team to offer the global reach and impact of TED to spread more ideas and stories of women and girls.


A Little TEDWomen History

Some questioned then: why a TEDWomen? Why not just add more women TEDTalks at TED, the annual conference in Long Beach, California, or to the roster at TEDGlobal in the summer? When June Cohen, TED’s media director, and I took the stage together at the International Trade Center to open the first-ever TEDWomen, we answered these questions and more with three days of remarkable talks from 70 speakers (61 women, 9 men) from 26 countries, including India, Iceland, Ireland, Sweden, Somalia, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Iran, Egypt, Qatar, and others; two Secretaries of State; the first female police chief in India; a Maasai farmer and his daughter; scientists; poets; physicians; performers; and a Nobel Peace Laureate among them.

You can view many of their talks on TED.com.

One of the most exciting features that emerged at that first TEDWomen was the response of the TEDx community, the hundreds of independent organizers who convene local TEDx’s elected to convene TEDxWomen conferences all over the world, participating in TEDWomen via live stream in every time zone.

This global response convinced us to convene in 2011 as a TEDxWomen and curate a one-day conference at the Paley Centers in NY and LA, working closely with TEDx program director Lara Stein and the TEDx community to offer our remarkable roster of speakers to the global community of TEDxers. The innovation that year was to make it bicoastal with TEDTalks and audiences in the Paley Center theaters and once again to thousands of women and men participating in TEDx conferences all over the world. Among the 2011 speakers were Jane Fonda, who also guest curated session on life’s third act, and each session featuring a TED talk from girls, including a 16-year-old from South Africa and the three teenage winners of the Google Science Fair.

You can watch all the talks from TEDxWomen 2011 tedxwomen.org/videos

Talks given at the first two TEDWomen conferences have already been viewed more than 16 million times on TED.com and another 5 million on mobile platforms and translated into 50 languages. And now, there will be more:

On Friday, November 30, we convened TEDxWomen 2012, back in DC, partnering with the United States Institute of Peace in their breathtakingly beautiful new home on Constitution Avenue. Across from us, the lights were coming on at the Lincoln Memorial, and a few blocks away, the holiday lights were going up at the White House.


Meet the Global TEDx Community

Around the world, TEDx organizers convened TEDxWomen conferences, joining us via live stream. In fact, more than 150 locations in 53 countries—from Accra to Amsterdam, Madagascar to Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Iraq—tuned in. Circumstances may be challenging in some of these places, but that didn’t stop nearly 15,000 people from convening with TEDx organizers to hear our speakers and thought leaders, idea shapers and change makers, some from their own communities.

Just a few of the extraordinary events:

At TEDxCrestmoorParkWomen, in Denver, Colorado, an 11-year-old cohosted an event for girls and women of all ages.

In Saudi Arabia, the courageous president of a women’s college once again found a secure way for her students to hear the full range of subjects and ideas to be explored on the stage.

At TEDxNelspruitWomen, Shan and Bronwyn Varty convened in a new digital learning center in South Africa’s Kruger National Park.


The Theme: The Space Between

Like most journeys in this complex, globalized time, this annual gathering has not been linear or limited by geography, or even by expectations that a women’s conference is only for women. TEDxWomen is for a world that needs the full participation of women and their ideas, their experiences, their compassion and convictions, their activism and their artistry. All of this and more is what we celebrated this year at TEDxWomen.

After tracing some of the most powerful threads that have been woven throughout these past two years, and speaking with organizers from all over the world at this year’s TEDxSummit in Doha last spring, we landed on this year’s theme: The Space Between.

We live in a time of extremes. The public dialogue often frames our most profound discussions in the inherently limited vocabulary of polarities: the rich vs. the poor, men vs. women, right vs. left, work vs. family, peace vs. war.

In fact, we know—women especially know—that this black-and-white worldview is fundamentally flawed. The world is not made up of polarities, but of spectrums. It is not structured like a line, but a web. Everything from the shape of our DNA to the Internet bears this out.

On Friday and Saturday, we rejected the reductive rhetoric of either/or and, instead, embraced the complexity of both/and. We examined, in the space between, the challenges we face and the opportunities we have. We honored the unique power of women to see the thousand, subtle shades of gray in between black and white and to act at the intersections of so many critical issues. The Space Between is where ideas worth sharing are truly born.

You can see all of the talks by going to our speakers page and clicking on individual speaker’s bios. I guarantee you will be as blown away as I was by this year’s TEDxWomen. Browse and enjoy them all. And check out continuing coverage on our TEDxWomen blog, as well as on Storify, Facebook, and Twitter.


Eve Ensler: The Rising

As TEDxWomen 2012 came to an end, the amazing Eve Ensler—playwright and activist founder of VDAY, a movement to end violence against women and girls—took the stage for The Rising, a session she curated and hosted. The audience in DC rose to their feet for every speaker as they had many of the other speakers throughout the day. Eve and her speakers led the entire audience out of the theater to join the hundreds of others who had been viewing in the comfortable simulcast spaces around the USIP building to hear seven exceptionally talented young women perform an original anthem, written by world-class composer and music producer, Tena Clark. EVERYONE joined them in the dance. “Break the Chain,” with its rousing music and lyrics, created such a perfect ending for TEDxWomen 2012. All through the Grand Hall at USIP I saw… 22-year-old Shabana Basij-Rasikh from Afghanistan, who started her own school for girls in Kabul, talking with iO Tillett Wright, activist/photographer…Korean spiritual leader Hyun Kyung Chung deep in conversation with National Geographic explorer Elizabeth Lindsey about wayfinding…Philanthropist Jacki Zehner connecting with South Africa’s Malehlohonolo Moleko, who traveled for the first time outside her rural village to share her story of entrepreneurship and personal rise out of poverty…Sister Joan Chittister dancing (yes, dancing) with Eve Ensler as they plotted the next groundbreaking actions. Eve had already announced the global dance action of One Billion Rising, calling on one billion people to strike, dance, rise—to recognize the one billion women raped or brutally attacked every year around the world.

Spirits were rising from new connections and hearts were inspired by personal stories of triumph and minds were simulated with all the new ideas worth sharing that had been shared by women and men from more than two dozen countries, connected to thousands convened in more than 50 countries and dozens of U.S. cities to hear their own TED talks and to be with TEDxWomen via the Internet.

If you missed this awe-inspiring day and evening before, join the conversation on TEDxWomen.org and on Twitter #TEDxWomen. We welcome you all to share ideas worth spreading.

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One Response to TEDxWomen: Finding Meaning in ‘The Space Between’

  1. Lisa says:

    This event was awesome. So glad there was live streaming. Amazing speakers, sharing so much wisdom. Can’t wait for next year.