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Woodruff Arts Center to host TEDWomen conference for next three years

Since 2010, TEDWomen has hosted 12 annual conferences in different cities and over 215 talks. (Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED.)

By Hannah E. Jones

TEDWomen — a conference focused on the power of women and girls as creators and change-makers — recently sealed a long-term partnership with Atlanta’s Woodruff Arts Center (WAC). For the next three years, the annual TEDWomen conference will be hosted at the local arts institution. 

The announcement was made on Wednesday, Oct. 19 at the High Museum of Art. (L to R) Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, WAC President & CEO Hala Moddelmog, TEDWomen Co-founder and Editorial Director Pat Mitchell and TED Head of Conferences Monique Ruff-Bell. (Photo by Raftermen for Woodruff Arts Center.)

The union felt like the right fit for both organizations, with the global nonprofit teaming up with one of the largest arts educators in the Southeast and home to the Alliance Theatre, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the High Museum of Art.

TEDWomen was established in 2010 after co-founder and editorial director Pat Mitchell pitched the concept to Chris Anderson, curator of TED, a nonprofit offering a platform to share ideas through short talks. She envisioned “another TED conference that offered the same unbelievable global platform for people to share ideas with the world but one for women that specifically focused on the ideas, the stories, the work that elevated and amplified what women were doing all over the world.” 

Twelve years later, the nonprofit has hosted annual conferences in different cities and over 215 TEDWomen talks. The team was ready for a place to call their own, and Atlanta felt like the right match.

“We began to need and want a home — a place to develop and become part of a community and mobilize the community,” Mitchell told SaportaReport. “I began advocating for Atlanta, which is my home, and a city that mirrors everything we stand for — inclusiveness, diversity, equity, arts, culture, technology. All the intersections of the things we care about happen here.” 

TED Head of Conferences Monique Ruff-Bell added, “[In Atlanta,] I felt such warmth and such a welcoming spirit. It was an immediate click, like, this is our next home and this is why we need to be here.”

“We are all about experience; we are all about cultivating community with each other,” Ruff-Bell said. (Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED.)

In addition to creating a space for women, the TEDWomen team envisions a conference that works in tandem with the city’s people — an event that isn’t only happening in Atlanta but with Atlanta.

“We think of it as a two-way conference,” Mitchell said. “We’re coming into here but we’re also extending our values out into the community and showcasing Atlanta to a global community.”

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens echoed a similar sentiment, emphasizing that Atlanta is the right host to help foster this community. “As a city that prioritizes engagement with women and minority-owned businesses in all sectors — public and private — Atlanta is the perfect home for the next three TEDWomen conferences,” Dickens wrote in a press release.

Mitchell and Ruff-Bell added that the TEDWomen conference and talks are open for all — and also feature male speakers and attendees — but are focused on discussing current events and issues through the lenses of women. 

Now, the team is starting to plan the 2023 TEDWomen conference. While they haven’t selected a theme yet, Ruff-Bell noted that the conference will showcase a “clear and strong conversation about gender equity.” 

Regardless of its theme, Ruff-Bell and Mitchell envision creating a space for women to speak, connect and learn, all with Atlanta as the stage.

“Our TED events aren’t like standard conferences,” Ruff-Bell said. “Our conferences are meant to help make you think differently on a personal and professional level.”

Mitchell added, “There’s always a special experience when you bring women together.”

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Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is an Atlanta native and Georgia State University graduate, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for two newspapers. Hannah managed the Arts and Living section of The Signal, Georgia State’s independent award-winning newspaper. She has a passion for environmental issues, urban life and telling a good story. Hannah can be reached at hannah@saportareport.com.

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