Do Mainly Men Have Ideas Worth Spreading?

Women With Power Tools

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 Power was 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:

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The Goal is Gender Parity — at TED and Beyond

Thank you to Gloria Feldt (@gloriafeldt) and Debra Condren (@debracondren), whose ideas and action suggestions inform this post, and forthcoming posts about Gender Parity at TED.

Is it possible that I haven’t been clear about what we’d like to see at TED conferences? In the conversations around TEDWomen, the relative absence of women and men of color TED programs, and concerns about whether TED as an organization is interested in inclusiveness, we may have focused mostly on constructive criticism and possible action steps. I may have just assumed that everyone knew what the goal was.

If so, let me make the goal clear. The goal is:

Gender Parity at TED 2011 and Beyond

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.

TED doesn’t need more time — the change we advocate is easy to implement, and practical action suggestions are abundant. In fact, a full action plan is forthcoming from the NYWSE Roundtable on Wednesday evening.

The only thing we need now is an explicit, sincere commitment to parity from TED.

TED, gender parity is an idea worth sharing. We want to share with you our ideas for making TED inclusive.

Email me, or comment below, and I can connect you with a diverse group of women and men who are ready to help.

See also:
Want More Women on Tech & TED Panels? Reject Meritocracy and Embrace Curation
Separate Still Isn’t Equal: Sexism and TEDWomen
Followup on the TEDWomen Conversation
Is TEDWomen Sexist? Use the “Group Replacement Test” and tell us what you think
Building on TED & the TEDWomen Conference: How can _we_ make conferences more inclusive spaces?


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by SpeakArtLoud and rebecca farmer, Gloria Feldt. Gloria Feldt said: New post: Do Mainly Men Have Ideas Worth Spreading? #NoExcuses […]

  2. Colette on December 7, 2010 at 10:02 am


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