Bad feminists reaching momentum @TEDWomen2015

Bad feminists reaching momentum @TEDWomen2015

This year, for the first time, I attended TEDWomen. I needed to see the Women version of the TED Conference after enjoying Active and Global. I needed to see the place where the famous talks from Sheryl Sandberg or Tony Porter had come from…

And I needed to see what was transpiring on the other side of the Atlantic where feminism seems to be hype and cool now, especially with Hillary Clinton running for president…

So after retrieving proudly my badge, picking up my gift gap with the latest candies or make up presents (feeling like a spoiled kid now), grabbing a hipster juice from the fridge or a freshly brewed vanilla latte almond milk cappuccino, I finally joined the comfy red armchairs for a treat…

Flipping compulsively through the different profiles in the TED Connect app, multitasking between the program, taking a picture, tweeting about a great quote and still listening mindfully to it all. #TEDcrazyness

A little disappointment though on the audience, even if the profiles were amazing, still very little men present and an over representation of white middle aged american women… Its time to shift the balance 🙂

But I did meet Yawa Hansen-Quao, impressive woman from Accra who develops Leading Ladies Network to inspire young ghanaen ladies and women to lead. Her take on the gender gap: our pervasive imposteur syndrome and what she calls “sexually transmitted leadership”, meaning that many women still need to sleep with their superiors to climb the corporate ladder…

So ready for the pre event on Wednesday, where Courtney Martin from Feministing and Fresh Speakers bureau gave us a few tips for speakers: The story is queen, always talk in three, be sensual (talk about what you feel, what you hear…).

Livestream hall

Livestream hall

Investing in ideas session hosted by Jacki Zehner from Women Moving Millions explained the power of investing in women entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs or cultural entrepreneurs.

Cultural entrepreneurship seems to be the new leverage to change behaviours.

The documentary The Hunting Ground for example shades light on the impunity of rape culture on many American campuses.

According to Geralyn Dreyfous and Regina Scully, the media will have an ever-increasing power for social change.

Many of the sponsors of the event were openly engaged in supporting a greater gender diversity. Thomson Reuters is developing a diversity and inclusion index. Citi Ventures funds a start up called Unitive helping recruiters eliminating the gender bias.

Even if the investors confess they still struggle to find female-led fin tech ventures…

But the real show started on Thursday!

Amazing speakers from emerging countries showed us how brave it can be to ask for a greater balance:

  • Sakina Yacoobi, Ashoka Fellow from Afghanistan, explained how she challenges talibans on a everyday basis to pursue her goal to educate women.
  • Memory Banda (@memorybanda75), a young 18 years old powerhouse from Malawi, smily face and round cheeks, had no shame to stand up on the TED stage and tell us how she is fighting child marriage in her home country. “I will marry when I want”, she says.
  • Alaa Murabit (@almmura), a kind young woman from Lybia, explained how the Muraabit international school of her family upbringing taught her to be at the table as a woman. She advocates for religious institutions not only driven by men and the end of the confusion between religious faith and strong independent women. She runs the Voice of Lybian Women.
Memory Banda

Memory Banda

Many former heads of state or institutional representatives were also here to acknowlege the importance of bringing this debate to the political field:

  • Jimmy Carter, the former US president, complained about men who according to him “don’t give a damn and accept their position of power without caring for the whole society well being” Check org.
  • Former Ireland president Mary Robinson gave a strong case to support climate change actions.
  • Elisabeth Nyamayaro (@e_nyamayaro), from UN Women, explained that through their He For She campaign, they work with companies and governments to reach gretter results. The French Accor group for example committed to eliminate pay gap for its 180 000 employees in the coming years. “It is not our gender who defines us but our shared humanity.” Apparently FC Valencia signed their petition. When will the Barça?
  • Billie Jean King (@billiejeanking), former women tennis player, an icon in bringing more women into the sports field was also on stage.
  • And of course Jane Fonda (@janefonda) (stunningly beautiful) and Lily Tomlin made us laugh and touched our heart talking about female friendship. “Not having close female friends is detrimental to your health. Women friends risk vulnerability. Men are born as relational as women but the patriarchal culture transforms them. We are not better than men. We just don’t have our masculinity to prove.” Go #sisterhood!
Negin Farzad

Negin Farzad

Apart from these big names, we had many other impressive moments from:

  • Entrepreneurs like Mitimeth building handicraft in Nigeria from invasive aquatic needs, Robin Murphy designing robots to help in case of natural disasters, Rana el Kaliouby (@kaliouby) from Egypt who invented Affectiva, a computer program able to analyze your feelings and facial expressions. Cristina Mercando (@jetpea) is surfing on the explosion of wearables and Internet of things, developing connected and beautifully designed jewels like Ringly.
  • Nonny de la Peña (@immersivejourno) is recreating events in virtual reality through her company Emblematic group to help people imagine what it means to live in a village at war or a domestic violent household. Jamia (@jamiaw), the former TED Prize from WAM! (Women action and the media), is writing a book on Beyonce and feminism.
  • Sociologists like Margaret Hefferman (@m_heffernan) studied the culture of wholefulness, explaining how social capital actually makes a company profitable and how collaborative and sensitive teams outperform individual intelligence.
  • Exhale is an NGO from Aspen Baker giving voice to those who had an abortion in their lifetime (as 1 in 3 women in the US at the moment). Far from the politicized pro-choice or pro-life polarized debate, she offers a talk line and an emotional support to men and women who have been through it. Sharing stories and listening as a great healing process.
  • Diversity in race was also adressed by Rich Benjamin (@richbenjaminusa) from Demos who spent 1 year exploring what he calls Whitopia, traveling as a black american to white conservative towns of the US, playing golf and poker in placrd with more gun dealers than gas stations. His take: we need to confront unconscious biases.
  • Jenny Chang and Liza Dazols (@outandaround) visited 15 countries around the world to meet 50 “super-gays” for their “not so straight” documentary Out and around. To see if gender was only an American notion and bring to the attention to the fact that 75 countries still criminalize homosexuality. Check also It gets better project as well!
  • Beautiful artists like the South african spoken word poet Lerato Mokobe (@blackboishine)  were also present or  Gayle  Lemmon  who reported on women military in combat zones proving that “Women can be heroes too.”
  • And the Iranian TED Fellow and stand up comedian Negin Farzad (@neginfarzad) from Muslims are coming! closed the show with great humour, as always!

But at the end, here are my 5 ultimate favourite TEDWomen 2015 moments:

  • My first pick is obviously the novelist and essayist Roxane Gay (@rgay) who delivered a funny yet compleling talk on bad feminists, as we all are. The ones who want a gender equial society but yet dance on Robin Thicke’s songs and wait for the prince charming to arrive… Watching romantic comedies (even if Shonda Rhimes is making a clear effort to diversify her cast and portray strong women in her shows Greys Anatomy and Scandal). But as she says, “rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”
Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay

  • Michael Kimmel was my second favourite as a stong advocate of getting men involved in gender equity. The author of Angry white men and Manhood in America, explained how men have a lot to gain from gender equity. As he says, “Privilege is invisible to those who have it”. We tend to think the objectve, neutral opinion comes from middle aged white men. But making gender visible to men is the first step to engage men, especially with humour! We need to work on men’s sense of entitlement. Society and companies must realize how much gender inequality IS COSTING them. The more egalitarian the relationships, the happier the people, the healthier the children, the more profitable the companies or the countries. “Feminism will make it possible for men to be free.” He is, according to the guardian, the worlds pre eminent male feminists. We might need to attend the New Men conference in November in London to know more…
Michael Kimmel

Michael Kimmel

  • Nancy Lublin (@nancylublin) impressed me through her new initiative Crisis Text Line. An anonymous SMS based counselling hotine for teenagers. Born from their former venture, org to engage young American people in useful activities in their communities thruogh 200 annual campaigns, she realized that 30% of the messages they actually received were linked to suicide, depression. With 6.5 million messages, they are now skilled to handle more accurately emergencies and can draw the first real time map of adolescent well being. This data is free and public on the website She advocates for technology as a tool to make the world a better place.

“I am not inspired by helping you find Chinese food at 2am in Dallas, or swipe right to get laid. I want to use tech and data to make the world a better place.”

  • Relationships were also a key part of the event. Maria Bello (@maria_bello), renowned actress, social impact investor and cofounder of We Advance empowering girls in Haiti is a full-on activist! In her new book Love is love, she wishes to deconstruct the labels we give ourselves. How do we define a partner? What is the sexuality identity box? Facebook had implemented more than 50 identity labels and then realized it was not inclusive enough and decided to let the user fill inthe blank. So we need to redefine labels of partnership and sexuality . The only labels you have are the ones you give yourself.
  • And the talk who brought us all to tears was from the strong intense and yet super kindhearted mama, Linda Cliatt Wayman, principal at a high risk highschool in Philadelphia. Her three tips to transform a dangerous decating school into hope:
  • If you are going to lead, lead! Assume the leadership. Set up non negotiables. Would it make you liked or not.
  • So what? Now what? No bullshit. No excuses. What do you propose? We know how bad the situation is. Now what do we do?
  • If nobody told u they loved you today, remember I do. Seeing children as what they are. Scared kids who ultimately want to be loved. As we all do.

So, as always, an amazing brain spa.

A slight bemol though, with so many powerful persons around, how to engage them directly? How to curate action-oriented conversations? How to get the community to make a change in their organizations or families in a concrete way?

That is what we will try in TEDxBarcelonaWomen next week. See you there!!!