Also DeleTED: Women

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

In a truly unsurprising development, it has been observed that TED conferences are heavily skewed towards men.

Almost three fourths of all TED speakers are male.

TED, the nonprofit conference behemoth that's "devoted to ideas worth spreading" and operates as "a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world's most inspired thinkers" is overwhelmingly dominated by high ranking male academics, according to a new demographic analysis of presenters on the site.

. . .

Overall, of the 998 TED presenters analyzed by the study, 73 percent were male. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Harvard University and the University of Oxford were the most commonly represented universities. Of the presenters with a university affiliation, 73 percent were senior-level professors, the rest were assistant professors, adjuncts or otherwise lower-ranking academics.

Cassidy Sugimoto, author of the study, says it's disconcerting that a group that says it's represents the newest, innovative ideas is recruiting mainly established scientists and speakers.



Even after dedicating a conference to the female perspective, TEDWomen, in 2010, TED remains overwhelmingly male.

The femalecentric TEDWomen drew criticism at the time and concern that it would further segregate, rather than advance women speakers. Given the continuing paucity of female speakers, it would appear that was a legitimate concern.

Salon editor-in-chief Joan Walsh is the first to admit, she’s a bit envious of the luminaries who get invited to the annual TED conference, where the incredible, the famous, and the incredibly famous join to hear and present “ideas worth spreading.” Since 1984, the event’s organizers have drawn together stars from the worlds of academia, entertainment, technology and business — plus the crowds willing to shell out $6,000 a pop to see them speak — to convene, talk and hopefully forge change in the world.

So when Joan got an invitation to the newly minted TEDWomen, she wasn’t sure whether to be flattered or insulted. Was this the real deal, or some kind of consolation prize? She knew TED’s track record — less than 20 percent of “TED talks,” as conference presentations are known, have been given by women, and of the speakers at this year’s conference, only 17 of 57 will be. Why create a new female-focused conference, Joan wondered, rather than just integrate more women into the program of TED itself?

Why indeed?

Just as the Graham Hancock and Rupert Sheldrake fiasco clearly demonstrated, TED is not the fresh, innovative "brand" it claims to be. Naughty corner. Female ghetto. TED is really just another staunch protector of the patriarchal establishment.

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