The TED Talks Every Aspiring Female Leader Should Watch
We are very lucky to live in a world where women have reached the top echelons of many industries. Unfortunately, the gender equality gap is still enormous, and women are not rising to the top as much as they should be. If you are an ambitious, goal-oriented woman, read our top TED Talk picks for inspiration and methods to be the best leader you can be.
Lecture: “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are”
Takeaways: Everyone makes sweeping judgments based on people’s body language. Hence, our nonverbal body language plays a significant factor in how our people think and feel about us. Cuddy asks the question, “Do our nonverbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves?” Her studies indicate that they do. Cuddy compared the effects of sitting in an upright posture versus a hunched-over posture in a variety of subjects.
Those whose posture was erect exhibited hormonal changes that configured the brain to be assertive, confident, and comfortable, while those who made themselves smaller by hunching over felt stressed, reactive, and shut down. In this TED Talk, Cuddy teaches women how to position themselves so that they feel ready to lead and capable of it. So stand up tall, throw your shoulders back, and bring on the promotions, ladies! Click here to watch Cuddy's TED Talk.
Amy Cuddy Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges ($21)
Lecture: “Why Do Ambitious Women Have Flat Heads?”
Takeaways: Dame Stephanie Shirley is the most successful tech entrepreneur you’ve never heard of, and certainly one of the most entertaining to watch speak. With her eccentric style and dry wit, Stephanie Shirley (or Steve Shirley, as she would sign her company-wide memos) describes the gradual process from how she founded a freelance programming firm for women with six pounds and expanded that company into a titan that generates over three billion pounds.
After surviving the Nazi invasion during WWII, Shirley decided to make her life one worth saving, and then, in her own words, “I got on with it.” Shirley pioneered women going back to the office by starting a company of women and for women in her kitchen, and listening to her story is incredibly inspiring. All aspiring leaders should learn from Shirley’s words of wisdom. Click here to watch Dame Stephanie Shirley's TED Talk.
Lecture: “Your Elusive Creative Genius”
Takeaways: In her TED Talk, Gilbert stresses the benefits of fear. When she was a young, aspiring woman, everyone would always ask Gilbert if she was mentally strong enough to endure the long and minimally hopeful career of being a writer. After the tremendous success of Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert cannot count the number of times colleagues and friends have voiced concern over whether or not she could handle the stress of trying to top her famous success.
Gilbert bravely articulates how her dreams and her success have most definitely scared her, but fear should never stop someone from pursuing a creative passion. She states that creative ventures make us nervous about other people’s health. But if you want to excel in a creative field, you must move past any external comments about the unhappiness and lack of recognition that a creative path can entail. The truth is anyone, from a doctor to an investment banker to a songwriter, is taking a risk when making a career decision. But in order to zone out others’ concerns for your well-being, you must have conviction. Click here to watch Elizabeth Gilbert's TED Talk.
Elizabeth Gilbert Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia ($10 and up)
Lecture: “What It Takes to Be a Great Leader”
Takeaways: After noticing a disturbing trend in leadership preparation, Torres took a sabbatical from her prestigious consulting job in order to travel the world and research effective leadership methods in disparate societies across the globe. After conducting her research, Torres concluded that leadership in the 21st century is defined by three questions: 1. Where are you looking to anticipate change, in both your business model and your life? 2. What is the diversity measure of your network? 3. Are you courageous enough to abandon the past, even if it worked for you in the past?
Essentially, Torres believes that strong, well-prepared leaders are constantly reacting to the world around them, not just working with their head down. Powerful leaders have the capacity to develop relationships with people who are very different from themselves, and gain their trust. And great leaders take risks. They dare to be different from others and from their previous selves. Watching Torres’s TED is an absolute must for all women looking to develop into successful, respected leaders. Click here to watch Rosalinde Torres's TED Talk.
Susan L. Colantuono No Ceiling, No Walls: What Women Haven’t Been Told About Leadership ($20)
Lecture: “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders”
Takeaways: We can thank Sandberg for pioneering the Lean In movement. But even if you’ve read her outstanding book, we highly recommend viewing this TED talk of hers and the follow-up 12 months later entitled “So We Leaned In… Now What?”
First Sandberg stated the facts. Women are not making it to the top of any profession in any part of the world. Even in the nonprofit world, only 20% of leaders at the top of organizations are women. In both talks, Sandberg encourages women to do what they would if they were not afraid. She doesn’t sugarcoat how hard it is to be a female leader. But she does encourage women to support one another and to share their personal stories about upward mobility in the male-dominated business world. Click here for Sheryl Sandberg's TED Talk.
Lecture: “The Career Advice You Probably Didn’t Get”
Takeaways: In her TED talk, Colantuono brings a disturbing fact to our attention. While women represent 50% of middle management and professional positions, the percentage of women at the top of those organizations is less than a third of that. Colantuono discusses how leadership manifests at every level and why many capable leaders are stuck in middle management.
If you’re feeling like your career is stalled, but that you’ve exhibited skills and accomplishments above your pay grade and made your intention to excel within your company known, then Colantuono’s talk is a must-see. It’s time to end the cycle of more-than-capable women being passed over for c-level positions. Click here to watch Susan Colantuono's TED Talk.