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12 Terrific TED Talks Every Young Woman Should Watch

January 17th, 2011

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Young women in the 21st century have a lot of opportunities at their fingertips especially when they have access to education and trustworthy, competent role models. While violence, oppression, and discrimination affect women in the third world and first world, the possibility for an accomplished, impassioned life is real. These TED speakers offer all kinds of advice and inspiration for many types of audiences, but especially for young women looking for support and an excuse to live out their dreams.

  1. Why we have too few women leaders, Sheryl Sandberg: Sheryl Sandberg is Facebook's COO, a female executive in an industry mostly dominated by men. In this lecture, she remarks that the fact women aren't making it to the top of corporate culture, politics or even the nonprofit world is a real problem. Women need to stop dropping out of the workforce and set new goals as individuals.
  2. How the Internet enables intimacy, Stefana Broadbent: While others argue that social media and the Internet have separated humans and have made us colder, cognitive scientist Stefana Broadbent believes that technology has made us closer and more intimate. Listen to her lecture to learn how you can reach out to others more effectively, spreading love, compassion, hope and support to people in your life and in order to help people around the world.
  3. Embrace your inner girl, Eve Ensler: The famed Vagina Monologues creator Eve Ensler talks to the audience about re-discovering your inner girl by embracing your "girl cell," which should be associated with intuition, wisdom, intensity, compassion, empathy, passion and vulnerability. Men have "girl cells," too, Ensler believes, yet we've all been trained to not be a girl, which is usually associated in societies around the world with being weak, stupid and ignorant. You'll listen to stories about women around the world who have overcome violence and oppression but are still proud of being a girl.
  4. Keep your goals to yourself, Derek Sivers: Derek Sivers has a slightly controversial idea about achieving success: keep your goals to yourself. While girls and women are sometimes more inclined to talk with friends and their support circle about exciting plans and goals, Sivers believes that for all of us — men and women — it's smarter to keep our goals personal, or even secret. After vetting our plans, we're less likely to see them through, he argues. Once we share our goals, our minds trick us into feeling satisfied, as though we've already accomplished them.
  5. The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz: Women growing up in the later part of the 20th century and the 21st century are consistently taught to embrace choice as a vehicle towards freedom and opportunity. Schwartz — through a study of economics and psychology — has found, though, that the richest, freest societies in the world are also the most depressed. You'll start to rethink what principles and ideals are most important to making yourself happy and satisfied.
  6. Standing Out, Seth Godin: Seth Godin's popular TED speech inspires all audiences to embrace their quirkiness: proving that crazy ideas get more attention than conventional ones. If you're tempted to take the safe route because you're afraid of making people uncomfortable or nervous about sounding "too female" if you stray from the traditional way of doing things, take Godin's advice and let your creativity fly.
  7. New data on the rise of women, Hanna Rosin: After all the upsetting research about women's salaries, violence against women, and the lack of women in executive positions, Hanna Rosin enlightens audiences about the rise of women in important areas. For the first time in U.S. history, women became the biggest group in the American workforce in 2010, and many rising industries are also dominated by women. Find out what this means for the evolution of our culture, in both our public and private lives.
  8. Radical women, embracing tradition, Kavita Ramdas: Global Fund for Women's Kavita Ramdas talks about finding the balance between rising to the top of Western business and society without compromising traditional culture and influences. Whether you're from a conservative background or not, this talk offers inspiration for changing the world without succumbing to the world's expected polarities. You can be both smart and compassionate, oppressed and full of opportunity, traditional and modern, a victim of violence and a powerful proponent of non-violence and progress.
  9. What adults can learn from kids, Adora Svitak: Twelve-year-old child prodigy and short story writer Adora Svitak fights to win respect for childishness and childish ideas. Irresponsibility and irrational thinking are more often characteristics of adults, she argues, which gets a rousing response from the whiskered, diploma-holding audience. Before you give up your ability to believe in possibility, give your wild ideas for a perfect world a chance.
  10. Why we need the explorers, Brian Cox: Young women interested in science, medicine, technology, entrepreneurship and innovation in any way should listen to this celebration of curiosity from physicist Brian Cox. He makes the case for the importance of explorers, who are often one of the first casualties of budget cuts and a floundering economy. It's a convincing talk for policy makers and financial analysts, but also for the world's future explorers who are discouraged by practical-minded teachers and parents squashing their dreams.
  11. Our century's greatest injustice, Sheryl WuDunn: Journalist Sheryl WuDunn makes a sudden, forceful and honest observation about the oppression of women around the world, a global problem that's really pretty simple to fix, if only we'd get going already. Whole economies and societies are depriving themselves of valuable human resources by discriminating against women, from depriving them of health care and education to aborting them before they even get a chance.
  12. The power of vulnerability, Brene Brown: Women and girls are often discriminated against because of their sometimes projected vulnerability, but social research professor — and storyteller — Brene Brown offers "data with a soul" to prove that love, vulnerability and humanity are truly powerful symbols of strength.

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