TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, just celebrated its 30th birthday. With more than 1,500 talks now available online, ideas and inspiration abound.
Here are my picks for the most inspiring talks by women; the talks that have stayed with me long since watching them.
1) Jill Bolte Taylor, Neuroanatomist, author, artist and musician
Filmed in 2008, Jill Bolte Taylor’s talk remains one of the site’s most popular with more than 15 million views. An accomplished brain scientist, Dr. Bolte Taylor’s life was forever changed when a blood vessel in her brain exploded. Her deep understanding of the brain offered a frightening front row seat as her own brain functions shut down one by one – motion, speech, memory, self-awareness.
Lucky to have survived, she spent the next eight years recovering and re-learning to think, walk and talk. She also discovered a heightened sense of color and visual creativity; her loss on the left side was matched with creative gifts on the right. She studied music and found therapy in stained glass. Today a best-selling author, artist and national spokesperson for stroke recovery, her story is not one of loss but rather for the possibility of coming back from injury stronger than before.
“How many brain scientists have been able to study the brain from the inside out? I’ve gotten as much out of this experience of losing my left mind as I have in my entire academic career.” – Jill Bolte Taylor
2) Leymah Gbowee, Peace activist, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize recipient
In her talk, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee speaks of the rape and violence directed towards women and young girls during war. A social worker during the first civil war, Gbowee led the women’s peace movement that helped end the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003. That work also enabled a free election in 2005. Gbowee went on to create the Young Girls Transformative Project which offers a space for girls through education scholarships – a space for personal growth and exploration, a space to “unlock great leaders.”
Watch her talk here.
3) Anna Mracek Dietrich, Inventor, pilot and co-creator of the first flying car
I first saw Anna Mracek Dietrich speak at an event on innovations in mobility a few years ago. In 2006, Mracek Dietrich and her team won a MIT $100K Business Plan Competition. Today, Terrafugia is a 20-person company on the cutting edge of personal aviation. It’s hard to believe there’s been so little innovation in aviation and automotive engineering, but exciting to think about what’s ahead for Mracek Dietrich and her team.
Why build a plane that you can drive? Watch Mracek Dietrich’s compelling talk here.
4) Debbie Sterling, Engineer and founder of GoldieBlox
If you didn’t know the California toymaker before its Beastie Boys inspired Super Bowl ad, you likely know GoldieBlox now. Stanford engineer Debbie Sterling founded GoldieBlox to tackle the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math. Launched in 2012 with $285,000 in Kickstarter funds, and drawing inspiration from her “Mr. Magoo” cartoonist grandmother, Sterling is inspiring tomorrow’s female engineers around the globe.
Watch Sterling’s talk here.
5) Sarah Kay, Poet and founder of Project VOICE
Sarah was performing with New York’s spoken word poetry elite in Manhattan’s East Village when she was just 14 years old. She went on to earn a Masters degree in the art of teaching from Brown University and an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Grinnell College. Kay founded Project VOICE while in high school, and today the organization uses spoken word poetry as a literacy and empowerment tool, encouraging creative self-expression in schools and communities around the world.
Watch Kay’s poignant “If I should have a daughter” talk here.
What’s your favorite TED Talk?