TEDx Women: Inspiring Individuals

By Kaavia Sambasivam, Editor-in-Chief

TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. With beginnings at a 1984 conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, the concept of TED has attracted a vast demographic of people and exploded in recent years. Today, there are a myriad of TED talks, covering nearly every imaginable topic— from science to business to international issues — in more than 100 languages.

tedxwomen2016Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events, such as TEDxWomen, help streamline idea-sharing within global communities. The mission of TEDxWomen is to celebrate female innovation and ingenuity by calling forth the vital creative power of its participants. It shines a light on women who are reimagining, redefining and reshaping the societies in which they reside.

The goal is to create an event that culminates inspiration in a way that doesn’t require complicated equipment, platforms or set up. The ideas shared during the event will ideally dissipate throughout communities and eventually begin to instigate change.

TED’s impact can be seen locally as well. Downtown Greensboro’s Triad Stage is a TEDx venue, and on October 27, I had the opportunity to attend the convention. Greensboro’s TED team organized for the National TEDxWomen Conference at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, to be broadcasted live right here in the triad.

The program consisted of seven reputable speakers who all explored the answer to one question: Do we control time or does time control us?

The theme encouraged the audience to move through time zones, time travel, time outs and time together: to investigate the challenges and conventions of time.  

In addition to being the first viewers of the national talks, the audience also got to hear from local speakers, such as Addy Jeffery, a member of the TED’s Greensboro program committee.

Jeffery, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, shared her story and reminisced on the night after her diagnosis. She recalled coming across TED Talks, and accredited the powerful rhetoric from the speakers as the source that inspired her to utilize her voice in the same way.

After successfully campaigning with the North Carolina Commission on the Status of Women, Jeffery initiated a piece of legislation known as the Breast Density Notification and Awareness bill. Governor Pat McCrory signed it into law on July 23.

The TEDxWomen conferences feature a number of individuals like Jeffrey who have just as much intrinsic motivation to improve their communities and contribute to the prospect of a more inclusive atmosphere.

The question that reverberated throughout the conference was this: Do we control time, or does time control us?

Speakers ranging from lactation specialists to app designers offered their perspectives on the theme.

When we say “I don’t have time,” what we actually mean is, “It’s not a priority,” Author Laura Vanderkam said. Vanderkam analyzes how busy women spend their lives hour by hour, and she has found that many drastically overestimate their commitments each week while underestimating their potential free time.

A different viewpoint came from neuroscientist Lila Davachi, who studies some of the brain’s most persistent secrets, from memory processing to how our perception of time allows us to construct our own versions of reality.

“Even when the external world is changing, we can maintain a more stable internal experience,” Davachi said. “Time is memory, and you control time.”

Cultural Theorist Brittney Cooper answered the question with insight about race relations in America.

“If time had a race, it would be white. White people own time,” Cooper said.

Accepting that we must grapple with the damaging effects of that embedded racism — including the r that white society gets to decide how long social progress must take. In order to look toward a brighter, most inclusive future, those in power must accept that time — especially progress — belongs to all of us.

Photo from The Pailey Center.