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Watching TED talks has long been an easy and accessible way to learn about a topic or be inspired to think about an issue in a new way — so today we’re rounding up 12 of the best TED talks for working women. Most are 5–15 minutes long, so they’re easily digestible, and they’re a good option if you want to listen to something informational but aren’t in the mood for a podcast.
If you want to save even more time, you can listen to the recorded talks at 1.25x speed or even 1.5x speed, if you can tolerate it. Subtitles are available (not autogenerated — meaning they’re actually accurate), and if you like, you can skip the videos entirely and read the online transcripts.
Readers, what are some of your favorite TED talks for working women? Which ones do you think about the most, and which have you heard a ton about but haven’t yet watched?
With TED2023 set for April — featuring speakers from Grimes to Sarah Jones to the cofounder of OpenAI — we figured this would be the perfect time to look back at some oldies-but-goodies. Please share your own recs in the comments!
Here are 10 TED Talks that are worth a watch:
Sheryl Sandberg, “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders” (2010, 14:42)
This is the talk that came out before Lean In, and I’ve thought about the talk as well as the book a lot over the years. Here’s the summary from TED.com: “Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg looks at why a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions — and offers 3 powerful pieces of advice to women aiming for the C-suite.” (Here’s our original discussion on the talk, as well as our Lean In discussion.)
Brené Brown, “The Power of Vulnerability” (2010, 20:03)
I’ve heard amazing things about Brown and her books — and this TED talk is a great place to start because it’s only 20 minutes long. Here’s the summary from TED.com: “Brené Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share.”
Sarah Lewis, “Embrace the Near Win” (2014, 11:28)
Sarah Lewis is the author of The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery (2015), which looks at the meaning of failure in a new way — and this TED talk explores the idea of the “near win.” Here’s the summary from TED.com: “At her first museum job, art historian Sarah Lewis noticed something important about an artist she was studying: Not every artwork was a total masterpiece. She asks us to consider the role of the almost-failure, the near win, in our own lives. In our pursuit of success and mastery, is it actually our near wins that push us forward?”
Melinda Briana Epler, “3 Ways to Be a Better Ally in the Workplace” (2018, 9:29)
Although Melinda Briana Epler works with tech companies on diversity and inclusion issues, her advice on allyship applies anywhere. Here’s part of the summary of her talk from TED.com: “We’re taught to believe that hard work and dedication will lead to success, but that’s not always the case. Gender, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation are among the many factors that affect our chances … and it’s up to each of us to be allies for those who face discrimination. [T]his actionable talk … shares three ways to support people who are underrepresented in the workplace.”
Hanna Rosin, “New Data on the Rise of Women” (2010, 15:56)
I love everything from Hanna Rosin — her writing is always interesting, on point, and thought-provoking. Here’s the summary of her talk from TED.com: “Hanna Rosin reviews startling new data that shows women actually surpassing men in several important measures, such as college graduation rates. Do these trends, both U.S.-centric and global, signal the ‘end of men’? Probably not — but they point toward an important societal shift worth deep discussion.”
Amy Webb, “How I Hacked Online Dating“ (2013, 17:14)
Kelly McGonigal, “How To Make Stress Your Friend“ (2013, 14:16)
Janet Stovall, “How to Get Serious About Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace“ (2018, 10:55)
Angela Lee Duckworth, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance“ (2014, 6:00)
Susan Colantuono, “The Career Advice You Probably Didn’t Get“ (2014, 13:48)
Past reader recommendations:
Roxane Gay, “Confessions of a Bad Feminist” (2015, 11:19)
Julie Lythcott-Haims, “How to Raise Successful Kids — Without Over-Parenting“ (2016, 20:58)
Readers, please share your favorite TED talks! Have you ever spoken at a TEDx event in your city?