TEDxTohokuUniversity hosted a special screening of TEDWomen 2018 at Kawauchi Campus on December 8.
The official TEDWomen 2018 event - titled "Showing Up" - took place in Palm Springs, California in late November. The event addressed how women all over the world are no longer accepting the status quo, and how they are "rising up, breaking out and pushing boundaries."
The campus screening featured talks from Session Five, which ranged from architecture and the environment, to education, art and grief.
"There is a new generation of well-educated and ambitious women in Japan, who are eager to contribute to the work force or realize their own dreams," said Aniko Karpati, organizer of the campus screening. "I think this is a great way to highlight opportunities and provide role models to female students and researchers early on."
The talks clearly resonated with the audience at Kawauchi - especially the one by former Wall Street banker Carla Harris, who spoke on the importance of having a sponsor to get ahead. Harris, who chaired the National Women's Business Council during the Barack Obama presidency, said that meritocracy in the corporate world is a myth.
To really move forward and be recognized, she said, everyone needs someone who is "pounding the table on your behalf," especially in major decisions that are often made behind closed doors. She described two ways to gain a sponsor - by performing beyond expectations, and through meaningful engagement with people.
Speakers who championed the environment were also popular, such as landscape architect Kotchakorn Voraakhom and Google's head of sustainability, Kate E. Brandt, who asked "What if, like nature, everything was repurposed, reused and reborn for use again?"
Several speakers also touched on untraditional ways to impact local communities, such as unifying people through art and music, as proposed by designer Helen Marriage and singer-songwriter Ane Brun. And by empowering "the forgotten middle," described by activist Danielle Moss Lee as "regular folks who are often overlooked because they're seen as neither exceptional nor problematic."
Writer Nora McInerny spoke of "being comfortable with the uncomfortable," specifically in dealing with death, a topic that many in the audience could relate to.
"Every one of us has a situation in our lives where we lost a person, where we lost something we wanted to achieve or where we lost ourselves," said Madeleine Hoffmann, a masters student. Hoffman was moved by McInerny's message that "we are who we are not because somebody told us to 'move on,' but because we learned our own way to 'move forward.'"
Following the screening, the audience participated in a discussion with a live panel, sharing their thoughts on the talks and their own ideas on how they can effect change. "What I liked about the event was hearing about people's experiences, and feeling inspired and motivated to be better," said Muhammad Jehanzeb Khan, a student originally from Pakistan. "(Helen Marriage's) topic of art bringing love across borders was my favorite."
"I believe a discussion like this can give courage and hope to a large number of women, and at the same time, develop into meaningful discourse for men as well," said Miwako Kitamura, an engineer working on her PhD. "If men take into consideration the inequalities of wages, treatment and other challenges that women face, work productivity could improve and a better society may be created."
Professor Ryoichi Nagatomi of the Graduate School of Biomediacal Engineering, who was on the panel, echoed the sentiment. "Although this event was a celebration of women, the topics were relevant to everyone regardless of gender. In all cases, the common factor is the need for communication and the sharing of ideas to make a positive shift in our mindset. If everyone does something small, the end result will be big."
Also on the panel was Aliise Eisho Donnere, an assistant professor at Tohoku Gakuin University, who said that she was impressed with the engagement from the audience, as well as the diversity. "I think that the Tohoku University audience was really cool. The questions were inspiring and interesting, sometimes very thought-provoking."