There were no “binders of women.”
Just a mobile app and a roster of women entrepreneurs, business leaders and creative thinkers on stage and in the audience at TED’s Women’s conference in San Francisco yesterday who contradict the conventional wisdom there aren’t any qualified women in tech — or in business in general — to serve on corporate boards or in top leadership roles in the U.S.
Among the speakers: Jessica Matthews, co-founder of Uncharted Play, who skipped rope in high heels (think about that for a minute) to show off the power-generating capabilities of a new jump rope called the Pulse that’s based on the same principles behind the soccer ball she created for generating renewable energy. Called the Sockett, the 17-ounce soccer ball, which never deflates, can generate about three hours of lights from an LED after 30 minutes of play.
Krista Donaldson, CEO of D-Rev, showed the prosthetic knee that she and her design team created to provide a low-cost option for the 80 percent of amputees around the world who can’t afford modern prosthetics, which start at $1,400 and can cost as much as $20,000. Priced at $80, the reMotion knee is now being worn by more than 5,000 people in 12 countries.
Jane Chen talked about the design challenges in creating the Embrace baby warmer to serve as a sort of incubator for poor mothers in developing countries who are trying to save the 20 million low-birth weight and premature babies born each year. MIT Professor Dava Newman showed off the lightweight, flexible, pressure-sensitive spacesuit she and her team are developing for a mission to Mars — and which may also be used to help restore motion to children and adults with disabilities such as cerebral palsy.
And then there was Maggie Wilderotter, CEO of Frontier Communications, and her older sister, Denise Morrison, CEO of Campbell’s Soup. Two sisters, both CEOs of major companies who have started a foundation in New York to mentor professional women in their 20s to 40s. When they joined their respective companies, there were few women directors. Today, they said, Frontier and Campbell’s each boast five women on the board.
If Twitter needs a list of potential other women candidates to add to its board (they announced their first female director yesterday after much criticism), they should just check out the TED Women website.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, whose TED talk on the lack of women in business in December 2010 was the impetus for her Lean In book, returned to the TED stage yesterday She talked about the reception to her message that businesses who fail to promote and attract women won’t be as successful as companies where there is diversity in the management team and on the board. “There’s been more dialogue. What matters is action,” Sandberg said.
“Everywhere I go, CEOs, mostly men, say to me, ‘You’re costing me so much money,” because women are asking for the raises and promotions they believe they deserve. “To them I say, I’m not sorry at all.”