Let’s Take TEDxActionNow On Gender Parity

ted.jpgTED and TEDx conferences are the ultimate intellectual/cultural/creative idea fests. Everyone I know who has been exposed to TED, TEDx or TED talks almost immediately becomes a fan.

(In case you don’t what TED is, learn the basics here, and see some cool examples of TED Talks here. And a word of advice: whoever you are, wherever you are, register for the next and closest TEDx event within reach –  the worldwide list is here.)

But nothing, not even TED, is perfect.

Like most conferences, TED suffers a dearth of women speakers on its worldwide stages. That’s an issue. But it’s also an opportunity.??

TEDx events in particular are ideal vehicles for making giant grassroots steps to solving the problem, because their gender parity record is worse than that of the main TED events, which average of 20 – 40% women speakers.

A few months ago, I randomly selected a group of 10 TEDx events from around the world, and looked at the female to male ratio in their speaker lineups.

Overall, the sample group averaged 23.7% female speakers. The lowest percentage (9%) was at TEDxWarwick, with TEDxLansing not far behind at 12%.

TEDxHouston had the highest percentage at 42%.

Of those in my sample who had held more than one event, one (TEDxAmsterdam), had fewer women speakers in 2010 than it had in 2009 (13% versus 18% respectively).

The biggest percentage increase was TEDxWarwick, which went from 9% women speakers in 2009 to 33% in 2010 (Bravo!).

This snapshot of a chart from TEDxRamallah‘s website (their event will be held April 16, 2011), shows the gender of nominated speakers, and indicates one of the underlying issues. At the time the visual was made, only 30 per cent of the nominated speakers were women (Click here to see the full chart with more detailed speaker nominee demographics):


While TEDxDubai, my local TEDx event, was not included in my sample, I’m pleased to say that the number of women speakers on its stage increased to 44% in 2010, from 17% in 2009. (See more here: Reboot To The Power Of Seven: The Amazing Women Of TEDxDubai 2010).

And TEDxChangeDubai was also the first event in the history of TED to have 100% female speakers on its stage (A Dream Come True: 18 Amazing Girls & Young Women Make TED History )

TEDsters who believe that gender pair parity at TED and TEDx conferences is a worthwhile goal can help to achieve it by taking personal action. Here are some things you could do:

1) If you are Ted X organizer, invite more women speakers. If at first they seem reluctant to speak, don’t give up! Encourage them, offer support, help them with their talks, get public speaking coaching for them, tell them that their voice is important, their knowledge and expertise should be shared, and perhaps most important, that they are valued.

2) If you are a potential TEDx attendee, talk to your TEDx organizers about gender parity, and suggest women speakers. When I saw that only 30% of the speaker nominees for TEDxRamallah were women, I enlisted the help of a friend, and together we proposed an additional 14 women speakers.

3) If you are a woman, start speaking, and sharing your ideas. If you already speak, speak more! We need more women speaking up, speaking out and taking the stage at conferences worldwide – not just at TED. Your voice deserves to be heard. Sharing your ideas will help create a better world for everybody – women, men and children. Aspire to speak at a TEDx event. Take steps to make it happen. Organise your own TEDx event, and make the speaker line-up inclusive and diverse!

(If you need help with your public speaking, presentations or TED talks, there are literally thousands of online resources with scads of tools, techniques and advice. I share 11 Tips To Beat Your Fear Of Public Speaking here.)

4) If you are a TEDster blogger, join the gender parity conversation. Share your views. If you believe in boosting the representation of women at conferences, flag events where gender parity is a #FAIL, celebrate those at which it’s an #EPIC #WIN. Blog about women speakers, and about their ideas. Help to amplify the collective voice of women using your online megaphone.

she_should_talk_at_ted.jpg 5) If you are any or all of the above, join “She Should Talk at TED,” a Facebook-anchored campaign the goal of which is to identify and promote more women speakers at TED, and more diversity on all conference stages around the world.

Gender parity is an idea worth spreading and implementing. Let’s take TEDxActionNow to make it a reality at TED, and on global conference stages, in 2011 and beyond.