Welcome to TEDWomen, Part 1

Posted on December 10, 2010

ITVS Vice President and Independent Lens Series Producer Lois Vossen reports from the TEDWomen conference in Washington, D.C. The two-day event explores how women and girls are reshaping the future. What happens when 600+ Type-A women get together for two days? Well, the first thing they ask is why is it still important to designate a conference as just for women. The answer is for the empowerment of women and girls.

After the usual pat-downs at airports and pat-downs to get into this government building in Washington D.C., we begin the journey known as TEDWomen.

It's a two-day, jam-packed, mind-pulsing, energy-bursting, PowerPoint-filled conference that is bringing together women from across every discipline to investigate ways we can join our vast and varied efforts that are designed to enhance the lives of and empower women and girls around the world. There are some men here, but few, and it’s definitely the most female-dominated event I have attended in 30 years. Day one begins and ends with music — I can't remember the last time 600 women got up and danced and led conga lines (including the First Ladies of Malawi and Sierra Leone, Adrianna Huffington and Pat Mitchell) around the ballroom, but that's what Angelique Kidjo inspired.

During the day however, the business at hand was focused on issues and seeing opportunities in new ways. Icelandic financial guru Halla Tomasdottir talked about ways her country is working to reverse the economic collapse of 2008, New Yorker cartoonist Liza Donnelly shared the inspirations for her work, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg looked at three ways women can rise to greater positions of leadership in their careers ("Take a seat at the table," "Don't leave before you leave," etc.), and Hans Rosling imparted the importance of the washing machine in a women’s equality revolution. 

True to form for a TED conference, the most surprising moments of discovery for me came from an unexpected place — during a talk by Elizabeth Lesser on warriors.  And Adrianna Huffington brought clarity (and relief!) with her last Big Idea for the day: sleep, reminding us that taking care of ourselves is a priority. (When I got back to my room at 11 PM, I heard the news that Elizabeth Edwards had died and in all the news bites we were reminded that after her diagnosis, Edwards’s message to women was to take care of themselves with early and regular breast examinations). 

That’s Day One. I have 26 new business cards.  Sleep, and onto Day Two.


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