Voices rule. Voices matter. Voices exhort you to speak up and be heard. And if the voices you hear are full of experiences that touch you and move you, then they also become the voices that inspire you.
In the past few decades, a number of women leaders from all walks of life have used TED as a medium to explore new frontiers, voice their thoughts, and in the process, inspire millions.
Here are a few TED talks we like and believe should be on your must-watch list.
We should all be feminists: Chimamanda Adichie, Novelist
This TEDxEuston talk started a worldwide conversation about feminism. Novelist Chimamanda Zgozi Adichie delivered this TEDxEuston talk in December 2012, kickstarting a worldwide conversation on feminism. In the talk, she retailed different stories to point out how men and women have different experiences. These experiences are gendered and men don’t often notice the gendered experience. which also is a problem of gender.
She says, “Gender matters. Men and women experience the world differently. Gender colours the way we experience the world. But we can change that.”
Adichie makes the point of why everyone - men and women should be feminists and how we can achieve a fairer world where men and women are truer to themselves.
Find your voice against gender violence: Meera Vijayan, Citizen Journalist
In this talk delivered at TEDxHouseofParliament, Indian citizen journalist Meera Vijayan explored how digital media and platforms can be used to fight issues like sexual harassment in the country.
She begins the talk by describing numerable instances of sexual violence that she, her friends, relatives had suffered from. Listening to these experiences is disturbing, but it brings to light how rampant and deep-rooted the issue of women’s safety is in India. She explains how the tragic rape of a girl in a bus in Delhi in 2012 led her to log on to a citizen journalism platform and discuss solutions and reactions.
She realised that, “One, technology was always at hand for many young women like me. Two, like me, most young women hardly use it to express their views. Three, I realised for the first time that my voice mattered.”
The opportunity of adversity: Aimee Mullins, Athlete, Actor
In this inspiring talk, the grounding-breaking para-athlete Aimee Mullins sets out to redefine the word ‘disabled’. Born without shin bones, Aimee once looked up the definition of the word, which read as ‘crippled, helpless, useless, wrecked, stalled, maimed, wounded, mangled, lame, mutilated, etc.’ She describes how language hasn’t caught up with the realities of today.
“Our language hasn't caught up with the changes in our society, many of which have been brought about by technology,'' she says.
She shows how adversity can open the door towards human potential. She believes that with human capabilities for adaptation, we must prepare our children to face adversity and not shield them.
This powerful speech by Aimee is inspiring and thought-provoking, just like her record-breaking achievements.
My wish: Protect our oceans: Sylvia Earle, Oceanographer
Sylvia Earle is a legendary ocean researcher who has been working in the field for over 40 years. In this TED Prize talk, Sylvia shares astonishing images of the ocean and shocking statistics about the rapid decline that ‘the blue heart of the planet’ faces. More than 90 percent of the fish have disappeared, half of the coral reefs are gone, and oxygen depletion in the oceans especially the Pacific should worry everybody.
“Yet we have this idea, we humans, that the earth - all of it: the oceans, the skies - are so vast and so resilient it doesn't matter what we do to it. That may have been true 10,000 years ago, and maybe even 1,000 years ago but in the last 100, especially in the last 50, we have drawn down the assets, the air, the water, the wildlife that make our lives possible,” she says.
In this eye-opening talk, Sylvia expresses her wish to see people join her in protecting the oceans that are vital to life on the planet.
Can we all “have it all”?: Anne-Marie Slaughter, Public Policy Expert
This talk follows an article, Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote for the Atlantic in 2012. The article titled, ‘Why women still can’t have it all’ dismantles the notion that women who fail to “have it all”, lack the ambition to do so. In this talk, Anee-Marie expands on the ideas she prescribes in the article.
From women, she shifts the demographic to include men, and everyone at work and in the public sphere. She explains why shifts in work culture, public policy and social morals can lead to equality for all. She argues that we need to let go of the notion that the desire to spend time with one’s family is a cause for shame. One can not always be expected to be a work environment that upholds slavish devotion to work and that we need to have flexible work environments that are beneficial to all.
How we can end sexual harassment at work: Gretchen Carlson, TV Journalist and Women’s Empowerment Advocate
In 2016, Gretchen Carlson, Fox News anchor and reporter became the face of sexual harassment in the workplace after her lawsuit against Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, which paved the way for thousands of other women facing harassment to tell their stories.
In this talk, Gretchen shares her experience of workplace sexual harassment. She describes how her story led to several other women to speak up and tell their stories and take back their places in the workplace.
“Breaking news,” she says, “the untold story about women and sexual harassment in the workplace is that women just want a safe, welcoming and harass-free environment. That’s it.”
She says the current available steps to tackle workplace harassment like sexual harassment training policies are not working. Which implies that new steps must be taken to ensure safer work spaces. She believes that bystanders must be turned into allies, arbitration clauses must be outlawed and spaces must be created for women where they feel empowered and confident to speak up.
This isn’t her mother’s feminism: Courtney E Martin, Journalist
In her first ever TED talk, Courtney E Martin presents what is means to be a milennial and feminist in this era. She admits that she didn’t associate herself with the label because it reminded her of her hippie mother and outdated notions of feminism.
As she grew older, her views of feminism changed. It was more about intersection and inclusivity. She understood feminism is on a continuum. While her mother talks about patriarchy, she has moved to talk about many other issues like racism, immigration, human rights, etc that form a part of the feminist equation.
In this personal and heartfelt talk, she examines three paradoxes that define the feminism of her generation.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)