The Best TED Talks by Women

TED Talks

Beyond Lean In

By now, everyone can more or less quote Sheryl Sandberg’s TED Talk that spurred Lean In (“Sit at the table!”) and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists (which enjoyed new life after being repurposed in a Beyoncé song). But these ladies are just the tip of the iceberg.

Here are 11 more women on their professional lives — and what they learned along the way.


NEXT >“The Price of Shame”

Who: Monica Lewinsky, sociologist and speaker
Synopsis: Lewinsky emerges to rewrite the narrative of her life and speak candidly as the first prominent victim of cyberbullying and public Internet shaming.
Notable quote: “I was Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously.”


NEXT >“Meet a Young Entrepreneur, Cartoonist, Designer, Activist…”

Who: Maya Penn, CEO of Maya’s Ideas
Synopsis: Penn describes how she decided to start an ecofriendly fashion business at the age of 8 — one so successful she was featured in Forbes.
Notable quote: “I feel I'm part of the new wave of entrepreneurs that not only seeks to have a successful business, but also a sustainable future. I feel that I can meet the needs of my customers without compromising the ability of future generations to live in a greener tomorrow.”


NEXT >“The Art of Asking”

Who: Amanda Palmer, performer and musician
Synopsis: Palmer underscores the powerful difference between asking for your worth versus expecting it.
Notable quote: “For most of human history, musicians, artists, they've been part of the community. Connectors and openers, not untouchable stars. Celebrity is about a lot of people loving you from a distance, but the Internet and the content that we're freely able to share on it are taking us back. It's about a few people loving you up close and about those people being enough.”


NEXT >“Why Do Ambitious Women Have Flat Heads?”

Who: Dame Stephanie Shirley, businesswoman and philanthropist
Synopsis: Dame Shirley launched an all-women software company eventually valued at $3 billion — in the 1960s. She essentially founded the company she wanted to work for, which allowed women to work from home, and now has tons of money to show for it.
Notable quote: “You can always tell ambitious women by the shape of our heads: They're flat on top for being patted patronizingly.”


NEXT >“Why I Must Come Out”

Who: Geena Rocero, model and activist
Synopsis: Rocero, who has achieved tremendous success as a model, recounts why her success is anomalous for the transgender community.
Notable quote: “Not a lot of people could say that your first job is a pageant queen for transgender women, but I'll take it.”


NEXT >“The Power of Introverts”

Who: Susan Cain, author, former corporate lawyer, and negotiation consultant
Synopsis: Conventional wisdom says brilliance takes the shape of an extrovert. But Cain makes the case for why introverts will inherit the world.
Notable quote: “Shyness is about fear of social judgment. Introversion is more about, how do you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation.”


NEXT >“Art in Exile”

Who: Shirin Neshat, artist
Synopsis: As an artist living in exile, Neshat has made a point of tracking the political evolution of Iran through charged images of Iranian women.
Notable quote: “Oddly enough, an artist such as myself finds herself also in the position of being the voice, the speaker of my people, even if I have, indeed, no access to my own country.”

Note: This talk contains brief images of violence.


NEXT >“Success, Failure, and the Drive to Keep Going”

Who: Elizabeth Gilbert, author
Synopsis: Best-selling (and not-so-best-selling) author Gilbert knows the ups and downs of success — and how to stay centered in the vast unpredictability.
Notable quote: “Your home is whatever in this world you love more than you love yourself. So that might be creativity, it might be family, it might be invention, adventure, faith, service, it might be raising corgis, I don't know. Your home is that thing to which you can dedicate your energies with such singular devotion that the ultimate results become inconsequential.”


NEXT >“Dare to Disagree”

Who: Margaret Heffernan, former CEO of five businesses, author
Synopsis: Heffernan tells the story of acclaimed doctor Alice Stewart’s long professional relationship with statistician George Kneale. Dr. Stewart is credited with discovering that X-raying pregnant women carried grave consequences.
Notable quote: “It's a fantastic model of collaboration — thinking partners who aren't echo chambers. I wonder how many of us have, or dare to have, such collaborators.”


NEXT >“Why Domestic Violence Victims Don’t Leave”

Who: Leslie Morgan Steiner, author and businesswoman
Synopsis: Leslie narrates how, as a fresh Harvard grad, she found herself in an abusive marriage, and she deconstructs the problematic mythologies surrounding domestic violence survivors.
Notable quote: “I would have told you myself that I was the last person on Earth who would stay with a man who beats me, but in fact I was a very typical victim because … I knew nothing about domestic violence, its warning signs or its patterns.”


START OVER >“Looks Aren’t Everything. Believe Me, I’m a Model”

Who: Cameron Russell, model
Synopsis: Russell addresses why being a model is not a career path and dissects the class and race dynamics that privilege her beauty.
Notable quote: “The real way that I became a model is I won a genetic lottery, and I am the recipient of a legacy…. For the past few centuries we have defined beauty not just as health and youth and symmetry that we're biologically programmed to admire, but also as tall, slender figures, and femininity and white skin. And this is a legacy that was built for me, and it's a legacy that I've been cashing out on.”

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