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TED Talk Analysis: Women in the Workforce

Many high schoolers watch TedTalks at schools during classes ranging from English to History. It is quite an interesting platform as it provides people with a chance to express their opinions and talk about important issues that they are passionate about in a professional and largely unbiased setting. However sometimes these speeches can be a bit controversial not in a very hostile sense, but they can certainly call you to question some person’s viewpoints or perhaps even your own. This was the case for me when I came across this TedTalk titled “Women in business: entirely unremarkable” by Kirsten Hall.

The title was the first thing which caught my attention and so, to be honest, I came into watching the video with a bit of critical attitude. I wanted to keep an open mind though and actually hear what Ms. Hall had to say, so I watched the 9 minute thirty-second speech, giving it my full attention. I found it to be quite interesting actually- that’s not to say that I agreed with everything she said. However, I did find her basic ideas intriguing to some extent. If you would not like to watch the video, essentially, she aims to convey the idea that exclusive programs promoting women in business is counterproductive in normalizing women being in the workforce. She explains how she used to go to some events held by her company which celebrated women in business and the underlying discomfort she felt being there. While she acknowledges the many achievements and milestones crossed over the centuries and decades for her to be in her position, Hall maintains that many companies like hers are disfavoring women by paying extra attention to their gender rather than valuing them for their skills.

Some particularly interesting quotes from her TedTalk include:

  • 7:15-7:30: “Excluding men causes them to disengage from a fuller understanding of the various and often subtle ways in which the subordination of women is reproduced.”

  • 7:40-7:50: “Let's shift the focus from gender to skills and performance as an objective criteria while still maintaining an open and inclusionary dialogue”

  • 8:50-9:05: As long as we celebrate achievement based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other constructed identity, we unintentionally do a disservice to the overall uplifting of those groups in society.”

In my personal opinion, I think there is some truth to her viewpoint that the normalization of women in the workforce could be somewhat accelerated if there was no particular “spotlight” shined upon the idea. Prioritizing an employee’s skills over their gender or identity is a reasonable way of thought in the practical sense. However, I respectfully disagree in the how, when, and where she suggests and implies this idea be put into place. I don’t think that as a society we have reached the point where women have equal opportunities and representation in the various industries within the workforce. For example, men largely outnumber women in the tech industry, particularly in leadership positions. This phenomenon itself discourages many young aspiring women to go into this field. It becomes a substantially larger issue when applied to women belonging to minorities, the LGBTQA+, and other groups.

To end this article, I would like leave you with a few questions, which you are welcome to discuss in the comments, about your thoughts about the TedTalk and the topic of women in the workforce in general:

  1. Do you agree with her view on the celebration of women in business or other groups in certain fields? Why or why not?

  2. Do you think that the perspective of celebrating and highlighting women’s achievements and involvement in various fields is harmful to the path towards the ‘normalization’ of women in various industries? Or is this in itself a negative perspective?

  3. Would you/do you personally take part in events that are geared towards women involvement, like the business events the speaker mentioned that she used to be a part of?

Thank you.

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1 Comment

Leah Gonzalez
Leah Gonzalez
Sep 15, 2020

I never though about the topic in this sense; however, now that I am I find it so interesting. I do realize now that celebrating women in the workforce could disrupt making gender equality normal in the future. On the contrary, celebrating can be a good thing because women have not had as many opportunities and successes in the past.

Definitely one of my favorite articles, thanks for the read!

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