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TEDWomen 2016: It’s about time

Ashley Judd speaks about online gender violence, and what we can start doing to end it, at TEDWomen 2016, San Francisco. Photo: Marla Aufmuth/TED.

Back in February when I looked at the speaker line-up for TEDWomen 2016: It’s about time, I knew where I wanted to be in October: San Francisco attending the TEDWomen conference live. Being an advocate for gender equality, a learning professional, and committed to my ongoing professional development, there was actually no place I’d rather be.

If you’ve watched TED or TEDx talks, you’ll be familiar with the formula – about 15 speakers in one day, with each talk between nine and 18 minutes long. TEDWomen was held across two days, with talks from over 30 speakers, and conversations with many, many new faces during session breaks and evening events.

Among the speakers were actor Ashley Judd, politician Nancy Pelosi, the hilarious British broadcasting personality Sandi Toksvig, one of my favourite performers from the 80s Taylor Dayne, all curated and hosted by Pat Mitchell.

The whole experience was completely overwhelming – and deeply personal. By the end of the two days, there was not a smidgen of space left in my brain, and I needed some serious time away to reflect, process, revisit, and receive. Three weeks have passed and I’m still taking it all in, but I have had enough distance now to be able to share with you three talks that stood out for me and why:

Halla Tómasdóttir – In 2016, responding to popular demand – and a viral Facebook campaign – Halla ran for president of Iceland and placed second with nearly one-third of the vote. Halla was well regarded in Iceland’s financial industry, and had a reputation for infusing diversity, social responsibility and ‘feminine values’ into business. She founded Sisters Capital in 2013, where she consults and connects women and men who embrace a more balanced set of values.

What resonated most with all 1,000 people in the audience was Halla’s message of the need to be totally transparent and honest as a leader, and as a candidate. What I loved about Halla, was her ‘realness’.  When she shared with us, “screw fear”, it brought the house down, and it has stuck with me as a mantra. Halla’s story of almost winning, but still achieving such success, has swept across Europe and she is seen as a ‘beacon of hope’ for many women and girls.The New York Times got it right when they referred to her as “a living emoji of sincerity”. Watch Halla’s TEDWomen talk.

Kimberlé Crenshaw – ‘Intersectionality’ is still something we are learning about in Australia, but Kimberlé has played a big role in popularising and defining it within the US. Kimberlé explains it metaphorically: “Intersectionality simply came from the idea that if you’re standing at the crossroad of multiple forms of exclusion, you are likely to get hit both ways”.  In the examples and stories she shared, the ‘double whammy’ she referred to was race and gender. Within the US, African-American women are the primary example of ‘intersectionality’. ‘Intersectionality’ has a global context and application. Here in Australia, we have our own examples of the race and gender ‘crossroad’. Within corporate Australia, Asian women easily relate to the experience of intersectionality, and there are many other ‘crossroads’. Kimberlé bought to our attention the double discrimination of ‘intersectionality’. She called on us all to speak out about racism and sexism, and to stand against all discrimination. Watch Kimberlé’s TEDWomen talk.

My favourite session of the conference was themed ‘It’s about our time’ Featuring four amazing talks, all of them ‘duets’. The one that touched me the most was the love story of Kim Katrin Milan and Tiq Milan. Kim identifies as bisexual and Tiq is a transgender man. They are both proud young LGBTIQ activists and educators. Tiq shared his unique perspective on how different genders move through society, and his own raw and very personal experience of navigating life as both a queer woman and as a trans male. Kim and Tiq met online and they are now happily married in a singular relationship. This is not something either of them ever imagined possible, and their joy, happiness and love for each other emanated from the stage like rays of sunshine. As Kim puts it, “Our love and our relationship is part of our advocacy…we want to give an example to our communities”. Their parting words and advice to us all: “Live a life that’s free.”

Check back here over the coming weeks as all of the talks from TEDWomen2016 are released, and make sure you catch Sandi Toksvig’s talk –  she was a hoot!

Amanda Webb

Amanda Webb is a highly experienced and respected Human Resources practitioner and CEO of Xplore.
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