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Lean In revisited: swap ‘bossy’ for ‘feminist’


TEDWomen 2014 San Francisco, TEDx Belfast“I’ve never met a man who has been asked how he does it all.”

TED is a nonprofit organisation devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become increasingly broader.

The idea of the TED conferences is to bring together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives – in 18 minutes or less.

TEDWomen 2013 took place in San Francisco this year, from 4-6 December. And as part of the TEDWomen conference, local TEDx also took place between 5 and 6 December and celebrated innovative people in their own communities.

The TEDx programme is designed to give communities, organisations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level.

There were more than 220 TEDx events in 58 countries presenting local speakers around the theme “Invented Here.”

Not just technology inventions, but also new solutions to poverty; new approaches to leadership; new expressions of art and music; and, at times, the invention of our own lives.

The result was a truly global conversation — from San Francisco to São Paulo to Seoul — celebrating inventors and designers, thinkers and makers, local problem-solvers and global leaders.

Some of the questions asked were: How does geography impact innovation? How would new technologies shape our lives? Can inventions help us lead longer, better lives? How can meaningful change be imagined, fostered, and scaled?

TEDxBelfastWomen event took place on 6 December. The speaker line-up included some well-known and not so well-known, local and not so local, speakers, and the audience shared the livestream from the main TEDWomen event in San Francisco on 5 December.

Over the past three years, TEDWomen has launched some powerful ideas into the world, one of which was a talk Sheryl Sandberg – currently chief operating officer of Facebook, gave in 2010 that led to her controversial groundbreaking book ‘Lean In‘.

This year Sandberg spoke to co-host Pat Mitchell, in a Q&A follow-up, and was watched worldwide on the livestream.

Both the talk she gave in 2010 and the book have had extraordinary global effects; there is more dialogue about the issue of women and careers, for one thing.

But Sandberg is more interested in the changes and the actions that are occurring.

“Everywhere I go, CEOs, mostly men, say to me, ‘You’re costing me so much money,” because women are speaking up and asking for what they feel they deserve.

“To them I say, I’m not sorry at all,” she said.

And she described the “circles” who meet every month to discuss their lives and empower each other — there are now 12,000 such circles in 50 countries.

“The book [Lean In] is about self-confidence and equality.

“Everywhere in the world women need more self-confidence because the world tells us we’re not equal to men,” she continued. “I’ve never met a man who has been asked how he does it all.”

And she asked women in the audience who have been asked this question to raise their hands: it was a lot of women. “We assume men can do it all, and we assume women can’t. That’s ridiculous.”

And things aren’t changing quickly enough.

“I try to say this strongly and I need to say it more strongly: the status quo is not enough,” she said.

The latest census data show no movement in pay equality: at best, a woman is paid 77 cents to a man’s dollar, and that figure hasn’t improved since 2002. It’s not good enough.

“We are stagnating in so many ways. We are not really being honest about that for so many reasons,” she concluded.

“It’s so hard to talk about gender. We shy away from ‘feminist,’ and it’s a word I think we have to embrace.”

“We need to get rid of the word ‘bossy’ and bring back the word ‘feminist.’”

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