Fostering Leadership Through TEDWomen

This year, at the TEDWomen conference, the premier forum for women leaders around the world, a new initiative took place before the conference even officially opened its doors.

For three days, TEDWomen brought together an incredibly diverse and impressive speaker lineup and the top women in business, tech, politics, and the arts to share their work, and tell their own personal stories of success and achievement. Attending TEDWomen is a powerful experience: a rare retreat where you can rub shoulders with inspiring figures including Me Too Founder Tarana Burke, legendary civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, and trailblazing political leader Stacey Abrams.

But this year’s conference was different, as the TED team took new steps to help attendees transform their inspiration into action. For the first time, TED launched the TEDWomen Leadership Intensive, a two-day pre-conference initiative that offers people from all stages of their careers a crash course in real leadership skills that they can use, even after the conference ends.

“TEDWomen is such an incredible ideas incubator, where bold thinking and creative leaders come together to foster change,” said Laura Beyer, Deputy Director of Brand Partnerships of TED. “But a lot of people, especially newer attendees, struggle with figuring out how to take those great ideas home, and how to turn them into the change they can use throughout their lives and careers. We wanted TEDWomen to inspire people not just during those few days in Palm Springs, but for years and years after. That’s how the TEDWomen Leadership Intensive was born.”

The two-day program included sessions on key leadership skills such as relationship building, stress alleviation, and professional storytelling, featuring top thinkers, business leaders, and change-makers. The program’s lineup was impressive: sessions included workshops on negotiation skills led by former FBI hostage negotiator and author Chris Voss, public speaking for business-led by TED’s Speaker Coach Director, Briar Goldberg and a relationship-building workshop led by journalist and entrepreneur Sarah Zapp.

In developing the program, our aim was that the lessons workshopped and connections made would provide long-term value in each participants’ careers, organizations, and communities. We wanted this group to gain applicable insights that could be used both in and out of the workplace,” explained Erika Flynn, Associate Creative Director of TED Partnerships. “Our agenda was rigorously created with that goal in mind: no more awkward kick-off cocktail parties, stilted networking events, or interminably long, indistinguishable panels, just real skills that you can use and take with you.”

Ultimately, the goal is to not just help women in their careers but to accelerate change around the world. “TED is focused on ‘ideas worth spreading,” said Laura. “So we thought that it was imperative that we help give our attendees the tools to spread those impactful ideas. The Leadership Intensive program doesn’t just bring business leaders together; it also layers on tools and teachings to share TED-inspired ideas and values. Our hope is that the participants will leave better prepared both to succeed in their careers and to accelerate change around the world.”

“Our conference encourages people to step outside of their familiar world, connect with new content, and engage with our incredible TED community. Ultimately, it encourages people to think about their own work and industries in new and unique ways,” she continued.

Creating high-impact change is a theme that ran through every aspect of the 2018 TEDWomen Conference. This year, TED also broadcasted its entire program in real-time to more than 200 simultaneous TEDxWomen events held in more than 68 countries in 177 cities around the world — including too many places where women do not have a strong voice or an equal seat at the table.

TEDWomen believes that the first step toward equality is education. By sharing stories of women’s success, TEDWomen can show young women and girls around the world what they’re capable of and inspire an entire movement of ambitious, entrepreneurial women who want to change the world for the better —  and improve the state of women, while doing so. For more information visit