My Top Five TED Talks for University Aged Women

Remember that rush of excitement you’d get in elementary school when you walked into class to find the projector set up, knowing that you weren’t getting a lesson so much as a movie break? Well, I guess that my seventh grade teacher realized that we were all much more willing to pay attention to something on a screen  — there’s a sick irony in that, writing from Zoom University — even if it wasn’t a movie. We watched Bill Nye at least three times a month, more if we were good, and eventually she started incorporating a platform that none of us had heard of at the time into her lessons: TED Talks. There was something fun about the videos— I remember the “guest lecturers” that she showed us, from Olympians to astronauts to lectures on climate change, being much more enjoyable than any of the lessons we received in person. 

Now, TED Talks are a classic form of education in the age of the Internet. I’m particularly interested in female speakers. These speakers teach  the lessons that won’t be taught in a formal classroom setting — about what it really means to be a woman, in everything from politics to public appearance to mindset. So, I’m here to share some of my favourite TED Talks from female speakers. Here’s to hoping you learn as much from them as I did. 

We Should All Be Feminists — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

If you’re going to watch anything on this list, this should be the one.  I absolutely guarantee that Adichie will make it worth your while. Addressing her growth as a feminist activist and explaining the historical and current problems that gender norms have imposed on both men and women, Adichie is funny and unapologetic as she explains why we should all be feminists. 

My favourite line? “The kind of man who would be intimidated by me is the kind of man I would have no interest in”. Preach. 

Why You Need to Be a Bitch Tabatha Coffey

Tabatha Coffey, a badass female business owner-turned-motivational-speaker, takes the negativity out of the term “bitch” in this talk. She starts off the talk making a point that all women already know — women who are powerful are called bitches.  These women are assertive and unafraid to get their voices across,  and if they were men exhibiting the same traits they’d simply be leadership material. In this Ted Talk, Coffey also addresses the  importance of not cutting each other down as women. For anyone who has been called a bitch for speaking their mind, this talk will hit home. 

Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection Reshma Saujani

Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, wants you to know that she is not talking about the importance of failure or about leaning in. In this talk, Saujani explains a simple fact which has become an uncomfortably central part of our culture: in schools and at home, girls are taught to be perfect, and boys are taught to be brave. From a young age, girls are socialized to aspire to perfection, leading them to grow into ambitious and capable women who, despite their ambitions, eagerness, or capabilities, are still overly cautious in terms of career risks. 

To any perfectionists reading this article: give this talk a listen. You might take more away from it than you think. 

Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable — Luvvie Ajayi Jones

Luvvie Ajayi Jones introduces herself as a professional troublemaker, and spends the rest of the talk explaining why she’s not afraid of that title. Jones is bright and fun to listen to as she explains why she embraces her role as “the first domino”, and explains how fear, silence, and mistruths work together to block you from finding your own purpose. This talk is funny, motivational, and powerfully honest. For anyone who struggles with speaking up due to fear, this talk is for you. 

Why You Think You’re Ugly — Melissa Butler

“Beauty disrupter” Melissa Butler, owner of the cosmetic brand The Lip Bar, believes that beauty standards aren’t linear. The basis of this talk is not that the standards aren’t real, or that they are something to accept — rather, Butler explains how the value of beauty and the impact that it has on self-confidence affects everything from friendships to relationships to careers. Butler is charmingly candid as she questions what attractiveness is, and unshakably confident while explaining how to protect your own identity — from others, but mostly from yourself. This is a talk I think all women, particularly young women, can benefit from.

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