15 Trailblazers Take The Stage (A Feminist Take on TED 2011)


Susan notes: I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that, yet again, less than 30 per cent of the speakers at the annual TED conference are women. I love TED (as I have said countless times before), but its performance on gender parity just isn’t good enough. On the other hand, the women who have been invited to speak, like millions of other women around the world, are breathtakingly awesome. Here’s what’s in store from the amazing women speakers who will take the stage at TED 2011 (click here to see 250+ more TED talks by amazing TED women):

1) Amina Az-Zubair (Advisor to the President of Nigeria on MDGs)

amina_ibrahim.jpgMrs. Amina Az Zubair is the senior special assistant to the President of Nigeria on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). She is charged with the coordination of the achievement of the MDGs in Nigeria through the establishment and implementation of a Virtual Poverty Fund.

Her position requires her to advice on pertinent issues regarding poverty, macro economic issues and sustainable development. Mrs. Az Zubair’s current position builds on her former role as national coordinator for Education for All (EFA) at the Federal Ministry of Education in Nigeria.

In this capacity she coordinated the development of a National Action Plan that included such cross-cutting areas as HIV/AIDS and macroeconomic strategies for poverty reduction as proposed in the World Bank Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper.

Az Zubair has served as coordinator of the Task Force on Gender and Education for the U.N. Millennium Project.

Currently, she is a member of the advisory panel of the global development programme of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation as well as the advisory panel of the rights to education project co-funded by Actionaid International, Amnesty International and the Global Campaign for Education.

She also sits on the board of the International Development Research Centre in Canada.


Related Links:
UN Millennium Development Goals

2) Beatrice Coron (Artist)

beatrice_coron.jpgAfter studying art at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts of Lyon, and studying Mandarin Chinese at the Université of Lyon III, Coron worked in tourism for over ten years (later as a New York City tour guide). Coron has lived in France (her native country) , Egypt and Mexico for one year, each and China for two years before moving to New York in 1985.

Coron’s career took her from illustration to bookarts, fine arts and now public art. Public art was a natural evolution to place stories with shared memories in the public realm. Rather than leaving an expression for another, her work makes artist books for viewer to step in, or fine arts with illustration methods.

Coron favors an expression that would englobe all her creative instincts rather than separate. Coron creates by cutting paper or Tyvek (a very resistant non woven material made by Dupont), for public art, she adapts her designs in metal, stone and glass. 

Her work has been purchased by major museum collections, such as the Metropolitan Museum, The Walker Art center and The Getty. Her public art can be seen in subways, airport and sports facilities among others.


Related Links:
Beatrice Coron Website

3) Christina Lampe-Onnerud (Battery Pioneer)

christina_lampe-onnerud.jpgDr. Christina Lampe-Önnerud is a well-known authority in the battery industry. She has pioneered the use of lithium-ion and other materials to deliver more powerful, longer lasting, safer, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable batteries for applications ranging from laptops to electric vehicles and utility energy storage.

Prior to founding Boston-Power, Dr. Lampe-Önnerud was one of the youngest partners ever appointed at Arthur D. Little/TIAX, where she ran the company’s globally-renowned battery labs, defined strategies for the world’s top chemical and battery organizations, and directed high-profile market evaluations.

Earlier in her career, she served as a director and senior scientist at Bell Communications Research. With close to 30 patents awarded in energy storage power solutions.

Dr. Lampe-Önnerud has earned considerable recognition and has received a wide range of awards. Most recently she was elected a lifetime member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, IVA.

The IVA is the world’s oldest engineering academy, whose members consist of an exclusive group of accomplished technologists furthering engineering and economic sciences, and the development of industry for the benefit of society.

Additional accolades include: the World Economic Forum 2010 Technology Pioneer; 2010 Sustainable Leadership Award; 100 Top Young Innovators by Technology Review, MIT’s Magazine of Innovation; Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year for Clean Tech, New England region; Stevie Award for Women in Business as Best Entrepreneur; Mass High Tech Women to Watch; and Top Innovators of 2008 by EDN Magazine.


Related Links:

4) Edith Widder (Deep Sea Explorer)

widder_edith.jpgDr. Edith “Edie” Widder is a biologist and deep-sea explorer who is applying her expertise in oceanographic research and technological innovation to reversing the worldwide trend of marine ecosystem degradation.

Edie graduated Magna cum laude from Tufts University where she received her BS Degree in Biology. She then went on to earn a Masters Degree in Biochemistry and a Ph.D. in Neurobiology awarded by the University of California in Santa Barbara.

Two years after completing her Ph.D., Dr. Widder became certified as a Scientific Research Pilot for Atmospheric Diving Systems. Edie holds certifications that qualify her to dive the deep diving suit WASP, as well as the single-person untethered submersibles DEEP ROVER and DEEP WORKER and she has made over 250 dives in the JOHNSON-SEA-LINK submersibles.

Her research involving submersibles has been featured in BBC, PBS, Discovery Channel and National Geographic television productions.


Related Links:
Team Orca
Ocean Explorer Website

Edith Widder On Bioluminescence

5) Felisa Wolfe-Simon (Biologist/Biogeochemist))

felisa_wolfe-simon.jpgFelisa Wolfe-Simon is an American microbial geobiologist and biogeochemist. As a NASA research fellow in residence at the US Geological Survey and a member of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, Wolfe-Simon led a team that discovered GFAJ-1, an extremophile bacterium that they claimed is capable of substituting arsenic for a small percentage of its phosphorus and sustain its growth.

Wolfe-Simon did her undergraduate studies at Oberlin College and completed a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Chemistry and a Bachelor of Music in Oboe Performance and Ethnomusicology at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

She received her Doctor of Philosophy in oceanography from the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University in 2006.


Related Links:

6) Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi (Businesswoman/TopGun CEO)

indra_nooyi.jpgIndra Krishnamurthy Nooyi is an Indian-born American executive and is the Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo Incorporated. On August 14, 2006, Nooyi was named the successor to Steven Reinemund as chief executive officer of the company effective October 1, 2006. On February 5, 2007, she was named chairman of the board, effective May 2, 2007.

She is a Successor Fellow of the Yale Corporation. She serves as a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum, International Rescue Committee, Catalyst[7] and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. She is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Eisenhower Fellowships, and has served as Chairperson of the U.S.-India Business Council.

In 2009, Nooyi was considered one of “The TopGun CEOs” by Brendan Wood International, an advisory agency. In 2010 she was named #1 on Fortune’s list of the “50 Most Powerful Women” and #6 on Forbes’ list of the “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.”

In this video clip, filmed at the 2011 Davos conference, she says she supports “forcing the numbers” to get a greater representation of women.


7) Janet Echelman (Public Installation Artist)

janet_echelman.jpgJanet Echelman is an American artist specializing in public art installations and sculpture. She graduated from Harvard University in 1987 with Highest Honors in Visual Studies. From 1988-1993 Echelman lived and worked in Bali, Indonesia before returning to America.

She created her first permanent installation, She Changes, in 2005 in Porto, Portugal. According to Sculpture Magazine, her work in Portugal charts “a bold new direction for sculpture” and is “one of the truly significant public artworks in recent years.”

Her art has been presented in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Lithuania, India, Japan, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Canada, Mexico, and the US. She graduated from Harvard College and completed graduate degrees in psychology and painting. She is self-taught in sculpture.

A recipient of awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Pollock- Krasner Foundation, Japan Foundation, Rotary International Foundation, Harvard Graduate School of Design Loeb Fellowship, Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellowship, the American Academy in Rome, and a Fulbright Senior Lectureship, she currently serves on the national boards of the U.S. Fulbright Association and the Aspen Institute Energy and Environment Awards.


Related Links:
Jane Echelman Website

8) Janna Levin (Physicist/Author/Artist)

janna_levin.jpgJanna Levin is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University. Her scientific research concerns the Early Universe, Chaos, and Black Holes. Her second book – a novel, “A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines” (Knopf, 2006) – won the PEN/Bingham Fellowship for Writers that “honors an exceptionally talented fiction writer whose debut work…represents distinguished literary achievement…”

It was also a runner-up for the PEN/Hemingway award for “a distinguished book of first fiction”. She is the author of the popular science book, “How the Universe Got Its Spots: diary of a finite time in a finite space”.

She holds a BA in Physics and Astronomy from Barnard College with a concentration in Philosophy, and a PhD from MIT in Physics. She has worked at the Center for Particle Astrophysics (CfPA) at the University of California, Berkeley before moving to the UK where she worked at Cambridge University in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP).

Just before returning to New York, she was the first scientist-in-residence at the Ruskin School of Fine Art and Drawing at Oxford with an award from the National Endowment for Science, Technology, and Arts (NESTA). She has written for many artists and appeared on several radio and television programs.

Related Links:
The Office of Janna Levin

9) Julie Taymor (Stage, Opera & Film Director)

julie_taymor.jpgJulie Taymor is an American director of theater, opera and film. Taymor’s work has received many accolades from critics, and she has earned two Tony Awards out of four nominations, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design, an Emmy Award, and an Academy Award nomination for Original Song.

After college, Taymor used a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to study pre-Bunraku puppetry on Awaji Island, Japan, to learn more about experimental theatre, puppetry, and visually oriented theatre. Taymor’s greatest acclaim as a director for the stage has come from the popular musical The Lion King (1997), an adaptation of the animated film. Taymor received two Tony Awards for her work on The Lion King, one for Direction and one for Costume Design, making her the first woman to receive a Tony Award for directing a musical.

In November 2008, Taymor directed a film version of Shakespeare‘s The Tempest, it was released in December 2010.  She is currently directing the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.


10) Kate Hartman (Researcher/Inventor/Artist/Technologist)

kate_hartman.jpgKate Hartman is a researcher, and inventor. She is interested in how people communicate and what makes them tick. Kate creates new tools for expression through innovative applications of technology.

Her individual and collaborative projects span the fields of wearable computing, mobile telephony, video installation, and conceptual art. Whether it be houseplants that make phone calls or hats that amplify the voices in your head, her work explores the idea of enhancing relationships and illustrating the unseen.

Her work has been exhibited internationally and is featured in the recently published book “Fashionable Technology”. She’s also a professor at OCAD and has taught classes and workshops at ITP/NYU, Parsons, the Banff Centre, and NYCResistor.


Related Links:
Kate Hartman Website

11) Kathryn Shulz (Journalist/Author/Public Speaker)

kathryn_schulz.jpgKathryn Schulz is a journalist, author, and public speaker with a credible (if not necessarily enviable) claim to being the world’s leading wrongologist.  Her freelance writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, TIME Magazine, the Boston Globe, the “Freakonomics” blog of The New York Times, The Nation, Foreign Policy, and the New York Times Book Review, among other publications.

She is the former editor of the online environmental magazine Grist, and a former reporter and editor for The Santiago Times, of Santiago, Chile, where she covered environmental, labor, and human rights issues.  She was a 2004 recipient of the Pew Fellowship in International Journalism (now the International Reporting Project), and has reported from throughout Central and South America, Japan, and, most recently, the Middle East.

A graduate of Brown University and a former Ohioan, Oregonian, and Brooklynite, she currently lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.


Related Links:
Being Wrong Website

12) Maya Beiser (Cello Goddess)

maya-beiser.jpgDescribed by the The New Yorker as a “cello goddess” and by the Washington Post as “the diva of the cello,” Maya Beiser has captivated audiences worldwide with her virtuosity, eclectic repertoire, and relentless quest to redefine her instrument’s boundaries.

Over the past decade, she has created new repertoire for the cello, commissioning and performing many works written for her by today’s leading composers.

She has collaborated with composers Tan Dun, Brian Eno, Philip Glass, Osvaldo Golijov, Steve Reich, Louis Andriessen and Mark O’Connor among many others. Maya is a featured performer on the world’s most prestigious stages, having appeared as soloist at the Sydney Opera House, New York City’s Lincoln Center, London’s Barbican and the World Expo in Nagoya, Japan.


Maya has conceived, performed and produced her critically acclaimed multimedia concerts, including World To Come, which premiered as part of the inaugural season of Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall; Almost Human, a collaboration with visual artist Shirin Neshat; and Provenance, which premiered at Carnegie Hall in October 2008 and forms the basis of her latest recording. Her sold-out concerts at Carnegie’ Zankel Hall have been chosen by The New York Times critics as among the “Best Of The Year.”

Related Links:
Twitter: @CelloGoddess

13) Sarah Kay (Poet)

sarah_kay.jpgSarah Kay (born June 19, 1988) is an American poet who grew up in New York City and began performing her poetry when she was only fourteen years old.  Even though she was often the youngest poet by a decade, Sarah made herself at home at the Bowery Poetry Club, one of New York’s most famous Spoken Word venues.

In 2006, she joined the Bowery Poetry Club’s Poetry Slam Team, NYC Urbana, and competed in the 2006 National Poetry Slam in Austin, Texas.  That year, she was the youngest poet competing at Nationals.  Sarah was featured on the sixth season of the television series Russell Simmons presents HBO Def Poetry Jam, where she performed her poem “Hands.”

She has performed in venues across the country including the United Nations, where she was a featured performer for the launch of the 2004 World Youth Report.  She has also performed internationally in the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, India, and South Africa.  Sarah is a published author, whose work can be found in literary publications such as Foundling Review, Damselfly Press, decomP, among others.

In 2004, Sarah founded Project V.O.I.C.E. and has since taught Spoken Word Poetry in classrooms and workshops all over the world, to students of all ages.


Related Links:
Projct VOICE Website

14) Sarah Marquis (Explorer)

sarah_marquis.jpgSarah Marquis first began exploring when she was eight years old – she took off with her dog to spend the night in a cave and didn’t tell anyone where she was going. At seventeen she crossed the Central Anatolia (Turkey) on horseback, without knowing how to ride.

She has travelled through Australia, New Zealand, the wild lands of Patagonia, and Moorea (French Polynesia). She explored Canada by canoe and in 2000 she crossed the United-States, from Canada to the Mexican border… 4,260 km in four months and six days.

She walked the Australian deserts in survival mode, taking 17 months to cross 14,000 km on foot. She came back changed and accompanied by a dingo (wild dog). By saving his life she ended up with an accomplice named Joe.

She spent eight months trekking in the Andes, from Chile to Peru via Bolivia. In 2010 she began a journey from Siberia to Australia… from the cold to the desert and from high altitudes to jungles.

Thirty years ago, I spent about 18 months traveling in Australia and New Zealand. In many ways, I’m still on the road. I don’t understand what she’s saying in this short video, but to me it captures the essence of what it means to be “on the road.” It’s life.


Related Links:

15) Sunni Brown (Doodle Revolutionary)

sunni_brown.jpgSunni Brown is a business owner, creative director, speaker and co-author of one of Amazon’s Top 100 Business Books titled GameStorming: A Playbook for Rule-breakers, Innovators and Changemakers. She’s best known for her large-scale live content visualizations, and she is also the leader of The Doodle Revolution – a growing effort to debunk the myth that doodling is a distraction.

Using common sense, experience and neuroscience, Sunni is proving that to doodle is to ignite your whole mind – a concept she’ll reinforce at the TED Conference in Long Beach this year (whoo!).

She will teach the world how to master “strategic doodling” in her 2nd book, The Doodle Revolution. But until the book exists, Sunni is content to interview, speak and write articles on the power of visual thinking.

Her work was recently featured in The Washington Post, Shape Magazine, Net Magazine UK, A List Apart and the Arab News. Sunni has presented on graphic facilitation, Gamestorming and innovation, and visual thinking and the brain at events like SXSW, the IDEA Conference, Duarte Design, the NY School of Visual Arts and her living room.

Here she is talking about the importance of doodling:


Related Links:
Twitter @SunniBrown

Overall Related Links:
AWR TED Talks By Amazing TED Women
Let’s Take TEDxActionNow On Gender Parity
TEDWomen A Resounding Success! Or Was It?
Reboot To The Power Of Seven: The Amazing Women Of TEDxDubai 2010
A Dream Come True: 18 Amazing Girls & Young Women Make TED History
Advocating for Inclusion: A roundup of ideas from post-TEDx636 roundtable
Speak Up, Speak Out, Take The Stage: The World Needs More TED Women
Does the world need TEDWomen?
Separate Still Isn’t Equal: Sexism Among TED Conferences
TEDWomen: Brilliant or Belittling?