TEDxDistilleryDistrict Women

Last Thursday I had the pleasure and the honour of attending TEDxDistilleryDistrict Women, held in conjunction with TEDWomen and other TEDxWomen events around the world. As it was my first TED event, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but I was not to be disappointed.

I have been a longtime TED fan, but nowadays in social conversation, I often hear opinions on the seeming ubiquity of the TEDx franchise and how it has diluted the quality and substance for which TED talks came to be known. After attending yesterday’s event, I can wholeheartedly say that the way TEDx has created a platform for more people’s voices to be heard is not dilution, but a wonderful celebration of the great things many people are doing, right in the heart of our own communities.

I was fortunate to encounter quite a few people I already knew (running your own networking organization helps with that!), and also to meet a number of other interesting women, ranging wildly in age, background and profession, but all equally engaging, passionate and curious – and all wanting to impact the world in a positive way. I could not have asked to be in better company.

Here are just a few of the many notable things I heard:

From Jaeny (pronounced ‘Jenny’) Baek, a former CBC TV host and journalist, her passion for new media and how women need to seize it and make their voices heard. With the accessibility of social media and user-created content channels, the barriers to entry have never been lower: we as viewers increasingly appreciate authenticity over perfection (nowhere is this more evident than the shift in pop-culture’s older-sister trope from aloof to approachable), and you can now create quality videos with as little as a simple cell phone camera. Afraid you’ll say the dreaded filler words “um” or “uh”? Jaeny throws in a few intentionally, just so her content doesn’t sound too polished!

From Emily Wright, a deeply personal story of how one can go from a privileged background to battling addiction and living on the street, how even with privilege, one can still be bullied, oppressed, and marginalised, how even when others believe in you, it can be difficult to believe in yourself, and how finding your passion can help you to find your self-worth.

From Basma Hameed, who suffered serious burns on over half of her face as a young child, how in the absence of a technique to help people like herself, she experimented on her own face to develop a groundbreaking restorative tattooing technique called Paramedical Micropigmentation that is being taught to cosmetic surgeons around the world – and is giving people with scars and skin conditions a new confidence they wouldn’t otherwise have.

From Anita Li, an editor at Mashable and founder of The Other Wave, how online media has the capacity to uncover and bring attention to diverse stories that wouldn’t otherwise be told through the lens of an extremely un-diverse traditional media.

From Margaret Heffernan, a topic very close to my heart – that of organizational behaviour and social capital, and the necessity to shift to a new paradigm to build successful teams and thriving companies. The old days of command and control management, of zero-sum competition and protective self-interest are not good enough; the most successful teams are collaborative, helpful and sensitive to one another and harness the power of people to do the courageous thinking and idea generation companies so crucially need.

From Elizabeth Nyamayaro, the impact of the #HeForShe movement in encouraging and empowering men to take an active role in confronting women’s inequality around the world.

What unites these women is a passion and purpose in what they do, a focused vision for the future and the role they will play in creating it. I was deeply grateful this day to see how a slice of my vision for my own future was already close at hand – surrounded by a community of deep thinkers, purposeful doers and conscientious creators, none of us perfect, but all of us rooting for one another to succeed.

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  1. I thouroughly enjoyed reading this well written post Sarah! Thank you for sharing your learnings.

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