Believe it or not, TED Talks have been around since 1990. The brainchild of Richard Saul Wurman, TED Talks were created for “ideas worth spreading” that would be accessible and free online. Originating in Silicon Valley, initially the TED conferences covered topics related to technology and design, however, the topics have since expanded to include culture, science, politics, and other academic pursuits.
With the popularity of the conferences increasing every year, and the easy access with which anyone can hear from a diverse range of speakers on a wide variety of topics in several different languages, TED has expanded to include several different sub categories such as TEDGlobal, TEDMED, TEDYouth, and TEDWomen.
Savoir Flair has curated a list of our top 12 most interesting, informative, and eye-opening talks. Although there are so many we could have included on this list, we narrowed it down to talks given by women and for women from an eclectic mix of leaders. Perfect to listen to while going on a run, getting ready for work, or even a short drive in the car, these 10 minutes are well worth your time.
3 Lessons on Success From an Arab Businesswoman
by Leila Hoteit
Named one of Forbes‘ most influential women in the Middle East, Dr. Leila Hoteit is the managing director and a senior partner at Boston Consulting Group in Dubai. In her uncompromising TED Talk, Hoteit expounds upon three lessons for success she has learned from her own experiences as a mother, engineer, and advocate for women.
“Arab women of my generation have had to become our own role models. We have had to juggle more than Arab men and we have had to face more cultural rigidity than Western women. As a result I would like to think that we have some useful lessons to share that might turn out useful for anyone wishing to thrive in the modern world.”
You can listen to Leila Hoteit’s powerful TED Talk here.
7 Beliefs That Can Silence Women — And How to Unlearn Them
by Deepa Narayan
Deepa Narayan is a social psychologist in India with over 25 years of experience as an international advisor on poverty, development, and gender. In her talk, Narayan addresses the deeply entrenched inequalities throughout India and across the globe. She pinpoints seven societal norms that seem harmless but which research has proven silence a woman’s voice, and she calls upon men to seek awareness and aid in bringing about change for their wives, mothers, and daughters.
“There is a need to redefine the concept of a good man and a good woman, which is the foundation of every society.”
You can listen to Deepa Narayan’s TED Talk here.
Plus Size? More Like My Size
by Ashley Graham
Model and body-positivity activist, Ashley Graham, gives an empowering talk on how she was able to defy the odds and regain her self-confidence in an industry associated with body shaming. She takes us behind the scenes as a model, and advocates for taking back our worth and loving our bodies for all the different shapes and sizes that they are by doing away with the term ‘plus-size.’
“Back in Nebraska I was known as the fat model — the girl who was pretty for a big girl. My body, like my confidence, has been picked apart, manipulated, and controlled by others who didn’t necessarily understand it.”
You can find Ashley Graham’s TED Talk here.
Don't Kill Your Language
by Suzanne Talhouk
With a Masters Degree in Physics and a poet at heart, Lebanese writer, speaker, and advocate for the Arabic language, Suzanne Talhouk, gives an impassioned speech about the importance of embracing our mother tongues. As English becomes more widespread and a modern badge of progression, Talhouk argues for the necessity of retaining our languages, such as her native Arabic, in order to facilitate power, pride, and unity.
“Language isn’t just for conversing. Language represents specific stages in our lives, and terminology that is linked to our emotions.”
You can listen to Suzanne Talhouk’s powerful TED Talk here.
The Danger of A Single Story
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
In 2009, Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, gave her now iconic TED Talk, ‘The Danger of a Single Story,’ that has since been viewed over 15 million times on the platform and to this day ranks as one of the top-ten most-viewed TED Talks of all time. And there is a very good reason for that. In her eye-opening discourse, Adichie sparked a worldwide discussion on the importance of equal representations of all cultures and races in literature. She challenged people to acknowledge that by only hearing a single story, we perpetuate misinterpretations and stereotypes of the complex nature of people’s backgrounds and histories.
“My roommate had a single story of Africa: a single story of catastrophe. In this single story, there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her in any way, no possibility of feelings more complex than pity, no possibility of a connection as human equals.”
You can listen to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s enlightening TED Talk here.
This Tennis Icon Paved the Way for Women in Sports
Interview with Billie Jean King
Tennis legend and pioneer for social and gender equality, Billie Jean King, gave a legendary interview at the TEDWomen Conference in 2015. During her energetic conversation with Pat Mitchell, King elaborates on the importance of the infamous ‘Battle of the Sexes’ in which she beat tennis icon, Bobby Riggs, in three sets. The match became a catalyst for women across the world to garner the courage to ask for a raise so that their salaries matched their male counterparts.
“It wasn’t about tennis. It was about history and social change.”
You can catch Billie Jean King’s TED Interview here.
A Headset that Reads Your Brainwaves
by Tan Le
In July 2010, revolutionary thinker and entrepreneur, Tan Le showed the world that there is no limit to the human brain when she unveiled her groundbreaking new technology. Co-Founder of Emotiv, a bio-informatics company using electroencephalography (EEG) to identify biomarkers for mental and other neurological conditions, Le astounded her audience by demonstrating a headset whose computer interface is able to read brain waves. With only a thought, Le showed how she could control not only virtual objects, but also physical electronics.
“Our vision is to introduce this whole new realm of interaction into human-computer interactions, so that computers can understand not only what you direct it to do, but it can also respond to your facial expressions and emotional experiences.”
Watch Tan Le’s astonishing TED Talk here.
The Power of Women's Anger
by Soraya Chemaly
Writer and thinker Soraya Chemaly challenged the status quo in this relatable talk about the inexcusable silencing of a woman’s anger. Chemaly shares provocative insights into how anger has stereotyped (and not necessarily for the better) women and people of color. In a daring twist, she manages to turn the tables on the age-old idea that anger is a negative emotion and instead, shines a light on the human response that has the power to provoke healthy change.
“I am sick and tired of the women I know being sick and tired.”
You can listen to Soraya Chemaly’s provocative TED Talk here.
For Women in Pursuit of Motherhood and a Career
by Irene Mora
If you are a mother struggling to balance a full-time job and raise a family, then press play on this talk now. In this heartfelt tribute to her mother, Calvin Klein Senior Merchandiser, Irene Mora, expounds upon her childhood growing up as an expat kid continually moving around in pursuit of her mother’s successful and high-powered career as the CEO of a major pharmaceutical company. Mora credits her mother’s ambition and drive as one of the hallmarks of the woman she is today, and thanks her mother for giving her the gift of independence, adaptability, business acumen, and authenticity as she pursued her own dream career in the fashion industry.
“Growing up I discovered how many people believed, and still do believe, that a woman can either have a career or be a good mother: that you can’t have both. But my mother is, and has always been, both things.”
You can watch Irene Mora’s heartfelt TED Talk here.
How Women Will Lead Us to Freedom, Justice, and Peace
by H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Nobel laureate and former president of Liberia, H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, gives an inspiring first-person account of the strength and power of the Liberian women who rebuilt their country after years of civil war had torn their homes and lives apart. Sirleaf announced her plans to launch a new program aimed at placing women in strategic government positions in order to achieve full equality and representation in government.
“I was the first woman president of an African nation, and I do believe more countries ought to try that.”
You can listen to H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s inspirational TED Talk here.
How I Went from Child Refugee to International Model
by Halima Aden
Halima Aden made history as the first hijab-wearing fashion model and now champions diversity across the world. Born in Kenya’s Kakuma Refugee Camp, Halima tells the story of how she immigrated to the United States at the age of seven, but struggled with her identity until she learned to cherish the fact that she was a black, Muslim, Somali-American, and from a Kenyan refugee camp. When she entered a beauty pageant wearing her hijab and a burkini, she “saw it as an opportunity to be a voice for women who, like [herself], had felt underrepresented.”
“I’m not afraid to be the first, to step out on my own, to take risks and seek change. I use my platform to spread an important message of acceptance.”
You can listen to Halima Aden’s inspirational TED Talk here.
The Price of Shame
by Monica Lewinsky
Monica Lewinsky‘s public shaming in 1998 is the impetus for this brave and honest talk in which she calls out cyberbullying and sheds light from the other side. She remarks how we are living in an age where internet magnification of humiliation is common and has even become a commodity.
In what was almost as interesting as her speech, after Lewinsky’s talk was released online, TED’s social media editor,
“We talk a lot about our right to freedom of speech, but we need to talk more about our responsibility to freedom of speech.”
You can listen to Monica Lewinsky’s courageous TED Talk here.