I’ve just returned from the first ever TEDWomen. My expectations were incredibly high — the speaker list included big-shots like Madeleine Albright, Nancy Pelosi, Arianna Huffington, Angelique Kidjo, Naomi Klein, Donna Karan, and perennial TED stars Eve Ensler and Hans Rosling. The shocking thing is that it was not in the least bit disappointing. And the surprise appearance of Hillary Clinton, a real hero to many women in the room, just added more luster to the proceedings.
If anything, the whole event was TOO much. After the final panel, I spoke with Pat Mitchell, who did a fantastic job steering the proceedings (in four inch heels, no less). I told her that the one thing I was hearing from everyone I talked to was that the event was overwhelming, both emotionally and intellectually. Why did they pack so much in?
Mitchell said that the organizers — primarily Mitchell and long-time TED staffer (and digital media visionary) June Cohen — felt it was essential to knock it out of the park. They needed to include as many speakers as a regular TED, but in half the time, and they had to have more live-streams than any other TED in order to prove that TEDWomen wouldn’t be perceived as a ghetto for girls in the rarified TED universe.
“Isn’t that typical for women?” Mitchell said, as her husband held her hand tightly. “We always feel like we have to do more.” TED has had a terrible record at achieving anything like gender parity in its line up of speakers over the years, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Mitchell and Cohen’s efforts help crack open the boy’s club. My TEDWomen talk was about the surprising impact that women will have on global media, due to their majority presence in the social media space. I’m wondering if something parallel might be happening in the TED universe, where being a networked over-achiever is de rigueur. Could it be that future TEDs will look a lot more like TEDWomen? We can only hope.