How TEDxSalem ended up with a majority woman speaker roster

By TEDxSalem Storyteller, August 16, 2016


The most important task for the organizers of TEDxSalem is curating interesting, challenging and fun talks — the essence of a good TEDx conference. And truly awesome talks are inseparable from the speakers’ identity.

Representing diverse abilities, cultural backgrounds and gender identification is key to putting on a well-rounded event. Some of these goals came easier and more naturally than others.

“Since we started TEDxSalem, we have always strived for more diversity in our speaker line-up. We want TEDxSalem to represent a spectrum of races, thoughts and ideas and we dreamed that one day we might have an event that was half male and half female,” co-curator Brian Hart said. “Some years finding women proved very difficult, not many were applying and our efforts to reach out to some of the amazing women in our area were not panning out. Rather than getting frustrated, it was a challenge that we took on with Moxie, we knew we could do better.”

This year, the seeds we have been planting over the past three years, reaching out to women that we admire and want to showcase, seem to finally be sprouting. Out of 13 speakers, 11 of them are women.

“What was once a dream of having a 50/50 ratio has been surpassed by a woman dominated line-up,” Hart said. “We couldn’t be more thrilled.”

How did this happen?

Well first, we built relationships with potential women speakers that did not pan out in previous years, but several of whom agreed to speak this year. Second, we happened to pick mostly women in our blind (as in no names or biographical data) selection process from our applicant pool. Combine the two processes together, and we ended up with 11 women.

And trust us, these women are doing some amazing work out in the world and they very much need to be heard — not for their sake, but for ours.

Achieving the perfect balance may not be possible, but taking special care to represent the traditionally underrepresented is a goal that is worth the effort. Feel free to keep us accountable, but really, help us expand and deepen our reach into diverse communities.

Do you know of a person of an underrepresented group who would be a great future TEDxSalem speaker? Please reach out to us at info@tedxsalem.us. Because the relationship we build today may lead to a new revolution.

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Tickets are on sale now for Salem’s annual TEDx event Saturday, January 7, 2017. Tickets are $50, $40 for students. The all-day event includes talks, performances, refreshments, lunch and a swag bag. Follow us on Facebook for the most up-to-date news from our community, and check our website regularly for new information. You can also reach us at info@tedxsalem.us.