Since my friend Ruth Ann Harnisch told me about it a few years ago, I’ve thought that attending a TED (tagline “Ideas Worth Spreading”) conference should be on my bucket list. I LOVE big ideas and great speeches about them. So why did I decide not to go to one when the opportunity was offered to me to attend TEDWomen in Washington D.C. December 7 and 8?
I vaguely wondered if the TED folks thought the little women still needed a conference of their own because women’s ideas aren’t as big as men’s. Organizational reputation scholar and consultant CV Harquail raised the same concerns more powerfully in this post when TEDWomen was announced. Nevertheless, I filled out the forms and proposed myself as a speaker on the very big idea of what specifically it will take for women to “reshape the world,” as TEDWomen’s tagline proffers. That was rejected based on some pretty lame reasoning, in my opinion. Then, frankly, I got so busy with my own speeches and interviews after No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Powerwas published in October that I forgot all about the conference and let the slot I’d been offered go.
This past week, the topic of TEDWomen and TED in general heated up so much in the blogosphere and on listservs I’m on that it came back into my consciousness. About that time, a walk and talk in Central Park with Debra Condren, executive coach and author of Ambition Is Not a Dirty Word, inspired me to do my part to make sure women’s big ideas are included at parity with men’s in future TED conferences–not just because it’s the right thing to do ethically, but because if the world really needs women’s leadership as much as I think it does and as the TEDWomen’s tagline implies it agrees, then gender parity is as good for TED and for men as it is for women.
Once Again, CV Harquail has said it so well that I don’t need to write more. I cross post her latest commentary on the topic here:
Because women surely have at least half of the world’s big ideas, it’s time for TED to commit to full gender parity, with proportionally diverse representation, starting at the very next TED conference, and at every TED and TEDx conference from now on.
We are not interested in nudging the needle from 25% or 30% women speakers all the way up to 35% or 40%. We want full parity – 51% of the speaking slots for women.
We’re not interested in taking another 10 years to get to parity on the TED Stage. We want parity at the very next TED conference, and at every TED conference beyond that. This means that there should be 51% female speakers and 49% male speakers, at the very next TED 2011.
Let’s face it: TED can’t offer a valid range of truly influential ideas if it doesn’t mine the ideas of a truly diverse pool of speakers. Women and men from a range of groups, not just the most privileged groups, have ideas worth sharing. We want a diverse group of these women (and men) on the TED stages.
To have a most effective TED, it needs to be clear that race privilege, gender privilege, sexual identity or orientation privilege, economic privilege, or privileges of physical ability should not and will not be unconscious criteria that exclude a full range of women thinkers and doers.
Gender Parity is an Idea Worth Sharing
We don’t need more excuses – there are plenty of women with kick-ass ideas who are more than qualified to share their ideas from the main TED stage, as well as from the stages of TEDx and TEDWomen.
Check out this info from the Aurora Monthly Newsletter put out by wheretowork.com:
Following recent headlines about the lack of women at Davos again this year, women question the role of such a forum if it doesn’t comprise diverse leadership. The World Economic Forum’s own leadership structure that sets the agenda and decides who attends is not gender diverse. 4 / 22 foundation board members are women. There are 0 women on the managing board responsible for WEF’s operations and running. 2 / 10 senior directors responsible for subject areas within WEF are female. It ‘d be quite insightful to know which corporations and Governments in attendance at Davos sent mixed gender delegations.
In chaos is opportunity. Mark my words, despite the many real dangers that women (being often the last hired) might face heightened vulnerability to losing jobs during an economic downturn, the current economic chaos is great opportunity for women to advance.
First of all, when there’s a mess to clean up, they always bring in the women, right? Second, when those in power can’t figure out what to do, they are more open than usual to new solutions and in opening the table to previously untapped individuals who might offer new ideas for the solutions they are desperately seeking in order to retain their positions. And finally, as the public and investors daily lose more confidence in the men who have been in charge for so long, pure pragmatism says that if you can offer a solution and it works, they’ll no longer care whether you have a higher pitched voice and sometimes wear a skirt. So women can move into leadership positions that have never before been open, and suddenly guess what–women in power and leadership roles becomes normalized, and considering ability before gender becomes normal operating procedure.
This is one of those Power Point moments for women. Who will step up to take advantage of it? I can’t wait to see what happens in the next decade.