Last Friday some of the world’s most powerful women took to the stage to give motivational speeches as part of TED Women 2013. There were 200 events held around the world and I went to TEDx Whitehall Women at BAFTA.
Fancy canapes were served in a carpeted room with floor to ceiling windows looking out over Piccadilly and, whilst eating and drinking tea, we were encouraged to ‘network’. Not only is this a little unnatural – being told to sell yourself to people and let them sell themselves to you – but there was a fair bit of food flying around the room as hungry women gobbled down deep fried prawns whilst animatedly discussing their careers.
Fortunately, the room was chockablock with inspiring, motivated, powerful, successful women – so it was a pleasure asking them about their careers and sharing stories about my – comparatively *modest* – career in return. And they were positive and encouraging about the importance of copywriters. It was a supportive environment with everyone welcoming others into discussions so I came away with a load of new contacts and some good ideas.
I met a woman who worked for the Ministry of Defence, a solicitor, a handful of entrepreneurs, two women from the Home Office – one working in immigration, one arranging social events. The Guardian’s Women in Leadership had sent a journo along. There were directors of massive corporate companies, women running their own internet businesses and ladies who were looking to recruit more women for their male-dominated companies.
The umbrella organisation for this series of events was TED but each TEDx talk is organised independently – this one by Simone Roche of Women 1st. The idea is that people speak for up to 18 minutes (never longer, this is the beauty of it), on whichever subject they choose as long as there’s no religious or political agenda and it will inspire change in the audience, and therefore the world. Only 100 people can attend an event.
As soon as the talks started (a handful from the US – watched on a screen, followed by 15 live speakers at BAFTA, chaired by the brilliant Hilary Carty), I was frantically scribbling down notes and tweeting away. Every sentence was so well considered and meaningful, I wanted to absorb all of it.
To write a biog about each of the incredible speakers might get dull, anyway it’s more about what they say than what they do – so, instead, here are some of the tweets I wrote on the day, quoting speakers:
Sheryl Sandberg, on whether or not to do something, “ask yourself: what would I do if I wasn’t afraid?”
“Stereotypes are holding women back from leadership roles all over the world” Sheryl Sandberg
“Women should speak when spoken to; help others… Girls are bossy when they lead, little boys are good leaders” Sheryl Sandberg
“Everywhere in the world women need more confidence. Men are never asked: ‘how do you do it all?’” Sheryl Sandberg
“Get rid of the word bossy, bring back feminist” says Sheryl Sandberg
“Violence is not natural, it’s learned and if it’s learned it can be unlearned” Esta Soler
Esta Soler wanted men to talk about domestic violence, her male friend said: “you want men to talk about domestic violence? Men don’t talk” (she found another way to get them involved)
“There are more male MPs today than there have ever been women in parliament” says Stella Creasy
‘There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women’ – Liz Bingham quotes Madeleine Albright
The brilliant Kirsty Walker: “50% of women harbour self doubt and are reticent about seeking promotion, compared to 30% of men”
“Follow your own path, look for opportunities – don’t follow the crowd and don’t be put off by failure” says Sue Langley
Andy Woodfield: Don’t tell someone you’re going to give them feedback, instead explore their strengths and explain how they can be even better
Carla Buzasi quotes John Steinbeck in her brilliant talk: ‘now that you don’t have to be perfect you can be good’
I came away from the talk standing tall; feeling confident and empowered. And I’ve since applied the advice that almost all those women offered: don’t be afraid to ask. Because you won’t get anything if you don’t. So I asked, and I got. YES!
For a full list of TEDx Whitehall Women 2013 speakers, see here.