Learn more about the astonishing group of speakers who will share bold ideas, tough truths and jaw-dropping creative visions at TEDWomen 2021.
Speaker lineup subject to change.
In the autumn of 2012, Shabana Basij-Rasikh stood on the TEDWomen stage in Washington, DC, and challenged the world to dare to educate Afghan girls -- to join her in her life's work of creating the best educated generation Afghanistan had ever seen, one that would help her nation rise above the desolation of years spent under Taliban rule.
In the summer of 2021, Basij-Rasikh stood at the airport in Kabul as the Taliban roamed the streets of her hometown once more, and helped to coordinate the evacuation of nearly 250 members of her school community, including nearly 100 SOLA students, away from Afghanistan and into Rwanda.
Two events, nine years apart. Now Basij-Rasikh will tell the story of the days that came between -- and her hopes for the days to come.
Basij-Rasikh is a graduate of Middlebury College and Oxford University. She was featured on the Forbes "30 Under 30 Asia" list and is a contributing columnist for the Washington Post.
Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo has worked for 20 years helping governments, businesses, communities and individuals prepare for pandemics. She was one of the first experts invited to testify before Congress about the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2020. She sounded the alarm that the US was not doing enough to prepare for the devastating consequences of the virus.
Nuzzo directs the Outbreak Observatory, which partners with frontline outbreak responders to study how we can better combat infectious disease emergencies. She serves as the lead epidemiologist for the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Testing Insights Initiative. She also co-leads the Global Health Security Index, which measures readiness for pandemics and other health security threats in 195 countries.
Nuzzo is a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH), with joint appointments in the Department of Epidemiology and the Division of Infectious Diseases at the School of Medicine. She is a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations. She received a DrPH in epidemiology at JHSPH, an SM in environmental health from Harvard and a BS in environmental sciences from Rutgers.
Gillian Tett writes weekly columns at the Financial Times, covering a range of economic, financial, political and social issues. In 2014, she was named Columnist of the Year in the British Press Awards and has previously been named Journalist of the Year and Business Journalist of the Year. She was the first recipient of Britain's Royal Anthropological Institute Marsh Award and received the 2021 Presidents' Medal from the American Anthropological Association for her most book Anthro-Vision: A New Way to See in Business and Life. In June 2009, her book Fool's Gold won Financial Book of the Year at the inaugural Spear's Book Awards.
Tett's past roles at the Financial Times have included US managing editor, assistant editor, capital markets editor, deputy editor of the Lex column, Tokyo bureau chief and reporter in Russia and Brussels.
Jimmie Briggs was a co-founder of the Man Up Campaign, a global initiative for catalyzing youth to stop violence against women and girls. This led to his selection as the winner of the 2010 GQ magazine "Better Men Better World" search, and as one of the Women's eNews "21 Leaders for the 21st Century." A member of the New York City Gender Equity Commission in the administration of Mayor Bill DeBlasio, he has worked as an adjunct professor of investigative journalism at the New School for Social Research and was a George A. Miller Visiting Professor in the Department of African and African-American Studies at the University of Illinois: Champaign-Urbana. For more than decade, he also taught documentary journalism at the International Center of Photography.
Briggs holds a BA in philosophy from Morehouse College as well as a Medal of Distinction from Barnard College. He currently contributes to Vanity Fair and The Guardian, among other publications. A National Magazine Award finalist, Briggs's book Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go To War investigates war-affected children around the world. Presently, he is finishing an oral history project on the community of Ferguson, Missouri in the aftermath of the 2014 death of Michael Brown, Jr., as well as designing a book of collected essays on manhood, race and trauma. He is the recipient of awards and fellowships from the National Association of Black Journalists, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Carter Center for Mental Health Journalism.
Singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash has released 15 albums of extraordinary songs, earning four Grammys and 12 additional nominations. She's also the author of four books including the best-selling memoir Composed, which the Chicago Tribune called "one of the best accounts of an American life you'll likely ever read." Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Oxford American, The Nation and many more print and online publications. A new book, Bird on a Blade, was recently published by UT Press, combining images by acclaimed artist Dan Rizzie with Cash's lyrics.
In addition to regular touring, Cash has partnered in programming collaborations with Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, SFJAZZ, the Minnesota Orchestra and the Library of Congress. She is currently artist-in-residence at New York University. In 2017-2018, she was a resident artistic director at SF JAZZ and has continued her partnership with them since. Along with many other honors and awards, Cash received the 2021 Edward MacDowell Medal, awarded since 1960 to an artist who has made an outstanding contribution to American culture. She is the first woman composer to receive this prestigious honor.
Maria Popova is the creator of The Marginalian (founded in 2006 under the bygone name Brain Pickings), which is included in the Library of Congress permanent digital archive of culturally valuable materials; the author of some very thick and some very slender books; and the maker of The Universe in Verse -- a charitable celebration of the wonder of reality through stories of science winged with poetry.
Dr. Charles C. Daniels, Jr., co-founder and CEO of Fathers' UpLift, grew up without a father in his life. Despite his mother's love, he felt the impact of abandonment -- guilt, shame and embarrassment. Ultimately, he realized that his fractured relationship with his father was at the root of his despair. Daniels's journey to find his father -- and his realization that he was not responsible his father's absence -- led him to his life's work.
Daniels holds a bachelor's degree from Bethune-Cookman University, a master's in divinity from Boston University School of Theology and a master's in social work and PhD from Simmons University. While on the journey of founding and operating Fathers's UpLift, Daniels has taught at Harvard University and Simmons University, has been a national speaker and writer and has appeared on numerous television and radio programs, including CNN, ABC, Healthline, Good Morning America and WBUR. In 2019, he was chosen by the Obama Foundation as one of 20 Fellows selected worldwide as a civic innovator creating transformational change and addressing some of the world's most pressing problems. He is married to Samantha Fils-Daniels, who co-founded Fathers' UpLift with him.
Smita Sharma is a Delhi-based photojournalist committed to representing people with dignity. Her visceral images have been published in a range of outlets, including the New York Times, BBC World, Wall Street Journal, TIME and National Geographic. Her work has also been exhibited and shown globally, including at the UN Headquarters in New York. She is the recipient of awards from Amnesty International, the Las Fotos Project and One World Media.
Zarlasht Halaimzai is an Afghan-born British writer and founder of Amna.org. Forcibly displaced from Kabul when she was 11 years old, she arrived with her family in the UK at the age of 15. Halaimzai founded Amna (then called Refugee Trauma Initiative) in 2016 to help alleviate the suffering of people displaced by war and conflict. She is an Obama Fellow and, in 2021, the BBC selected her for its list of 100 Women, which celebrates exceptional women from around the world. Halaimzai writes for the Guardian Long Read.
Karen "Kaz" Lucas began her career in 1997 as a rapper and singer but has since branched out to experiment with creative ventures and projects in the worlds of performing arts, media production and digital marketing.
More recently, Kaz has been focusing on her lifelong passion for changing the way young people are taught about sex. She started The Spread, a sex-positive podcast focused on providing a straightforward, comprehensive sexuality and consent education -- which she wants to see replace the more usual practice of focusing on negative consequences of sex such as HIV/AIDS or unwanted pregnancy. Highlighting the power of healthy, informed and consensual sexual practices, she wants to change the way Kenyans talk about sex.
Professor Francisca Mutapi's research has had an extraordinary impact on the policy, practice and control of neglected tropical diseases. For instance, her work enabled 50 million African children to access treatment for schistosomiasis, a disease caused by parasitic worms. Her research has also improved the diagnosis of lupus in people of African descent and contributed to the COVID-19 pandemic response in Africa.
Mutapi was the first Black woman to be appointed professor at the University of Edinburgh in its 400-year history and the first Black African female professor appointed in Scotland. She is a fellow of the African Academy of Sciences, the Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. She is also a keen visual artist, using proceeds from her art sales to support children and youth in Zimbabwe -- work she furthers through her NGO, Mwenje Wedu Trust.
Marcia Belsky is the creator of "The Headless Women of Hollywood," a blog that seeks to bring attention to the still standard practice of fragmenting, fetishizing and dehumanizing the images of women we see in film and TV and on book covers and advertisements. She cowrote Handmaid's Tale: The Musical and her musical comedy was featured on Comedy Central's Taking The Stage.
Diana Adams is the founder of the Chosen Family Law Center, a nonprofit providing legal support services for LGBTQIA, polyamorous and other underserved families. They got their start in LGBTQIA legal activism in 2007 and now split their time between Germany and New York, working as a leader within an international network of lawyers advocating for protections for these families beyond borders.
Adams is also a cofounder of Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition, which works on legislative advocacy for those in consensually non-monogamous relationships and non-nuclear families. This group drafted model ordinances for multi-partner domestic partnership that have passed into law in three Massachusetts cities and has also developed various city-level non-discrimination protection laws based on relationship structure, as well as corporate non-discrimination model provisions.
In an industry that looks to define artists, Gina Chavez refuses to fit into a box. With features on NPR's Tiny Desk, Unlocking Us with Brené Brown and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Chavez was nominated for a Latin Grammy in 2020 and tapped to open the Latin Grammy premiere show with her first all-Spanish language release, "La Que Manda."
Chavez has harnessed her power to make space for those who can't be defined. From her half-Mexican, half-Swiss German background to her faith as a married Catholic lesbian to her music (which she sings in both English and Spanish), the Latinx pop-rock artist is unapologetically herself -- and wants to open the door for others to be themselves, too.
Rha Goddess is the soul coach behind hundreds of breakthrough changemakers, cultural visionaries and social entrepreneurs. As the founder and CEO of Move The Crowd and cofounder of nFormation, her unique methodology has empowered a new generation of conscious entrepreneurs and leaders to stay true, get paid and do good.
From the onset of her more than 30-year career, Rha has drawn on the power of creativity, culture and community to move hearts, minds and policy. Her work has focused on issues of racial justice and equality, leadership, electoral politics, offender aid and restoration, mental health and youth and women's empowerment.
Rha's bestselling book The Calling: 3 Fundamental Shifts to Stay True, Get Paid, and Do Good (St. Martins Press, 2020) leverages her unique methodology into a step-by-step blueprint for finding your purpose and making your most profitable contribution.
Maja Bosnic is an economist specializing in public finance. Her main area of work, advocacy and interest is in incorporating gender equality into complex rules and systems that govern public revenues and expenditures. Her main finding is that when we take gender equality into account, we not only get closer to gender equality, but we also make budgets better: more transparent, more equitable and more effective.
After working with this concept in her home country of Bosnia and Herzegovina with UN Women, Bosnic now works with countries around the world to help governments make their budgets more equitable.
Bosnic was team leader of one of the largest global projects on gender budgeting funded by the Swedish government and implemented in Ukraine (2014-2021). For years, she has worked with the International Monetary Fund at its training centers around the world, with the World Bank in Indonesia, Morocco with UN Women and with the Parliament in Zambia to ensure that gender is mainstreamed in financial decisions at all levels. She leads the governance sector team at Niras International Consulting, working with different clients to contribute to sustainable change.
Srishti Bakshi is on a mission to understand and end gender-based violence in India. After meeting more than 100,000 women on an epic journey across the country to film the documentary, WOMB: Women Of My Billion, she identified a key issue at work in preventing women from escaping violence: inhibited mobility.
As a result, Bakshi now works with MOWO Fleet, an initiative which trains and employs women as delivery drivers and on-demand taxi operators, providing them with the opportunity to earn both income and independence. Women can call a motorbike or auto-rickshaw -- driven by a woman -- and ease the fear of sexual violence. Bakshi was awarded the Commonwealth Points of Light award for India by Queen Elizabeth II and named UN Women's Empower Women Champion for Change, an award dedicated to empowering women to achieve their full economic potential. She holds a master's degree in business administration from The Indian School of Business, Hyderabad.
Anna Malaika Tubbs grew up in Dubai, Mexico, Sweden, Estonia and Azerbaijan. Influenced by her exposure to all kinds of cultures and beliefs, she now works to bring people together through the celebration of difference.
After graduating from Stanford University with a bachelor's in anthropology, Tubbs earned her master's in multidisciplinary gender studies and her PhD in sociology from the University of Cambridge. She is the author of the critically acclaimed book The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation.
Lilly Singh began making YouTube videos in 2010, and since then has established herself as a leading force in the world of digital media, with a global audience of more than 38 million. Until June 2021, she was executive producer and host of the NBC late-night talk show, A Little Late with Lilly Singh, the first person of Indian descent to host a major US broadcast network late-night talk show.
Singh recently signed a first-look deal with Universal Television Alternative Studio to develop unscripted projects. She will also appear in the upcoming second season of Hulu’s comedy Dollface, where she'll play opposite Shay Mitchell. Singh will also star in a Netflix comedy series she's developing with Kenya Barris, which she'll produce via her own production company, Unicorn Island Productions.
(Photo: Dustin Stafford)
Halla Tómasdóttir started her leadership career in corporate America working for Mars and Pepsi Cola and was on the founding team of Reykjavík University, where she established the Executive Education Department, founded and led a successful women’s entrepreneurship and empowerment initiative and was an assistant professor at the Business School. She was the first female CEO of the Iceland Chamber of Commerce and later went on to co-found an investment firm with the vision to incorporate feminine values into finance. The company successfully survived the infamous economic meltdown in Iceland. In 2016, Tómasdóttir was an independent candidate for President of Iceland. She entered a crowded field of candidates and finished as the runner-up, with nearly 30 percent of the vote.
Resson Kantai Duff's works to deconstruct the narrative of conservation that pits humans against natural resources. She engages with conservation practitioners and the wider public to unpack and decolonize conservation and to give Kenyans back a sense of ownership over their wildlife, culture and land. In addition to working as deputy director of Ewaso Lions, she serves on the board of the Conservation Alliance of Kenya. She previously worked as head of awareness at Save the Elephants and as a writer and editor for the International Institute for Sustainable Development (Reporting Services). She is a Women for the Environment (WE Africa) Fellow, and was also conferred the Wild Elements Innovator award in 2021. She has a master's in biodiversity, conservation and management from the University of Oxford, and an undergraduate honors degree in zoology from the University of Nairobi.
Sonali Prasad is a former Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her work defies any particular pattern and, after the experience of the pandemic, is now focused on excavating notions of rupture, intergenerational memory, accountability and imagination.
Prasad's print work has been published in a range of outlets, including The Guardian, The Washington Post, Hakai magazine, Mongabay, Quartz and Esquire Singapore. She is a former Google News Lab Fellow and Pulitzer Traveling Fellow. She now likes to experiment with storytelling in different forms of media, including poetry, data, documentary, reportage, installation art and mixed media.
Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli has more than 25 years of experience in international development. A seasoned entrepreneur, for the past 15 years she has focused exclusively on transforming the African agriculture and nutrition landscape, partnering with a range of private and public sector organizations. Her most recent start-up, Changing Narratives Africa, is committed to showcasing Africa's rich gastronomic heritage, celebrating its contributions to the food ecosystem and scaling proudly African food brands.
Okonkwo Nwuneli holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree with honors from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She was a senior fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School and an Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow. She is the author of Social Innovation in Africa: A Practical Guide for Scaling Impact and Food Entrepreneurs in Africa: Scaling Resilient Agriculture Businesses, both published by Routledge.
Ozawa Bineshi Albert is Anishinaabe and Yuchi. She lives in relocated Yuchi and Muscogee territory in Oklahoma, also known as Tulsa, and remembers her family organizing for community and Indigenous rights throughout her upbringing. Her work over the last 30 years has primarily focused on environmental justice and Indigenous rights, and she's also been part of pivotal movement building and multicultural spaces.
Bineshi Albert became one of the founders of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) as a young person. She also supported the creation and development of both an Indigenous Feminist Organizing School and an International Feminist Organizing School. She is currently co-executive director of the Climate Justice Alliance, where she leads with two other dynamic women of color. An avid creative, she wrote three plays and performed for three years with Hembras de Pluma in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her career has been a journey of community organizing, building power and working to protect Mother Earth while dancing, creating and cooking. As she says: "I work to build a society that sees itself as part of the land and not dominating over it. Then, and only then, will people be able to see the climate crisis we are in and act as if our pants were on fire!"
Collaborating with scientists and researchers, Katie Paterson creates artwork that considers our place on Earth in the context of geological time and change. She has broadcast the sounds of a melting glacier, mapped all the dead stars, compiled a slide archive of darkness from the depths of the universe, created a light bulb to simulate the experience of moonlight and sent a recast meteorite back into space. Her works use sophisticated technologies and specialist expertise to stage intimate, poetic and philosophical engagements between people and their natural environment, collapsing the distance between the viewer and the most distant edges of time and the cosmos.
Paterson has exhibited internationally and her works have been included in major exhibitions at galleries including the Hayward Gallery, Tate Britain, MCA Sydney, Guggenheim Museum and The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. She was winner of the visual arts category of the South Bank Awards in 2014 and is an honorary fellow of Edinburgh University.
(Photo: James Bennet, 2021)
As Katharine Wilkinson writes: "At age 16, through an ineffable alchemy of living and learning in the woods, I fell in love with this world and dedicated myself to being part of earth's healing. That commitment threads through my journey since, from research and teaching to strategy and advocacy at the intersections of environment, social science, religion, narrative and discourse, movement building, and gender equity.
"Along the way, I have written two books. The first, Between God & Green: How Evangelicals Are Cultivating a Middle Ground on Climate Change, grew out of my doctoral research at the University of Oxford, where I was a Rhodes Scholar. The second was a New York Times bestseller: Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. That book brings to life the pioneering, collaborative work of Project Drawdown, the nonprofit where I now lead communication and engagement.
"Climate change is humanity’s great challenge. It demands ambitious, swift, exponential action, across society. But many solutions are already in hand, and our collective wisdom is deep and wide. My work aims to help others envision what’s possible for this earth, our home, and persevere in making it real.
"Today, I live not in the woods but in Atlanta. I continue to find sustenance in rivers and mountains, dogs and horses, and a community of wise, wild, kindred spirits."
Emily Pilloton-Lam is a builder, educator and lifelong lover of power tools. She believes that the act of designing and building our physical world is a form of activism and social justice, particularly for women, youth and people of color. With a background in architecture, she founded Girls Garage, a nonprofit design and construction school, to equip the next generation of girls and gender-expansive youth with the personal power and technical tools to build the world they want to see. Every day, she teaches carpentry, welding, architecture and activist art to cohorts of young people who put these skills to work on pro bono construction projects for their community.
Dr. Cecilia Aragon has worked with Nobel Prize winners, taught astronauts to fly and created musical simulations of the universe with rock stars. Her major awards for research, and a stint at NASA designing software for Mars missions, led President Obama to call her "one of the top scientists and engineers" in the United States.
Her memoir, Flying Free, shares her own journey of breaking past her own fears to become a champion aerobatic pilot. Her book, Writers in the Secret Garden, takes a close look at the fascinating world of fanfiction to explore how young people express themselves.
Temie Giwa-Tubosun founded LifeBank in 2016 with a simple but powerful goal in mind: to create a health supply chain that could deliver vital products and equipment from ports to clinic -- 24/7. Now working with hospitals across Nigeria and Kenya, she manages a delivery system that includes bikes, boats, trucks, tricycles and drones, all operating around the clock to make sure lives are not lost needlessly.
Giwa-Tubosun has worked with organizations including the Department for International Development, World Health Organization, UNDP and the Lagos State Government. In 2014, the BBC listed her as one of the "100 women changing the world." She was also recognized as an "African innovator" by Quartz and the World Economic Forum.
For R&B singer, multi-instrumentalist and producer Geminelle, music and healing are one and the same. She started making music at age 13, and remains committed to spreading light through her craft. In 2016, she released her debut LP, Audiobook, and she is also an active part of the female and non-binary-led activism group, Resistance Revival Chorus.
Having moved from her native California to New York, she joined the Black contemporary artists collective Tunnel Vision. In 2019, she released her wellness-focused album, Mantra Loops, and started an ongoing virtual meditation series, which elevates the universal teachings and affirmations at the core of her music. She has performed with artists including Kesha, Jim James, Tiffany Gouché and Valerie June.
Fariel Salahuddin's favorite way to be introduced at social gatherings is as "the foremost goatherd in Pakistan," a vocation she happened upon through a combination of fate, curiosity and unemployment. She believes that rural poverty in developing countries is the result of a limited and narrow view of money and systems of monetary transactions. She's passionate about moving towards a multi-currency system which is inclusive of and leverages the economic assets of the varied communities that comprise civilization today.
In a previous life, Salahuddin was an energy economist and development professional advising governments and private organizations in different countries on energy policy, projects and pricing. She lives and works in Pakistan and the Netherlands, and she loves running.
Emma Hart is a professor of computer science at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland, where she leads a research group working on nature-inspired intelligent systems.
Hart develops computer algorithms to solve challenging, real-world problems by taking inspiration from the processes observed in natural evolution that allow species to continually adapt and learn in order to thrive in a given environment. Her algorithms have been applied to applications that range from optimizing infrastructure design to solving logistics and scheduling problems. Her recent work mainly focuses on evolutionary robotics, addressing the challenge of how an artificial version of evolution can be used to autonomously design and fabricate robots that perform well in unknown environments. Such robots will fundamentally change the concept of machines, showcasing a new breed that can change their form and behavior over time to adapt to new situations.
Hart's work has been featured in variety of mainstream media such as the New Scientist and The Guardian. Since 2017, she has been editor-in-chief of Evolutionary Computation (MIT Press), the journal's first female editor. She also contributes more widely to the artificial intelligence community worldwide, most recently on the Steering Committee and to a working group that led to the publication of Scotland's AI strategy in 2021.
Gala Marija Vrbanic is the founder of Tribute Brand, a high-end digital fashion brand and fashion tech house developing various utilities for digital fashion. They are known as one of the biggest pioneers in the field and famous for their characteristic contactless and cyber aesthetics.
With a strong background in traditional fashion, Vrbanic officially launched Tribute Brand in April 2020 as the world's first direct-to-consumer digital fashion brand. They are the first commercially successful digital fashion brand, paving the way for the whole digital fashion market. Their work has been published in most major press and they regularly collaborate with and support the biggest names from the industry, offering both design expertise and production and distribution services, including purpose-built AR tech, blockchain expertise and app development. By encouraging people to transfer their identities onto the virtual realm, they aim to decrease the demand (and, thereby, the production and usage) of physical clothes. Their goal is to improve the societal impact of the fashion market, making it fairer and more accessible, and to change behaviors in a fully sustainable way.
Christina Tosi founded Milk Bar in 2008 in order to bake outside the lines and turn the dessert world upside down. Offering treats like layer cakes with unfrosted sides, cereal milk soft serve ice cream and "compost" cookies, she quickly won respect and awards for doing things her way. Milk Bar products are now available through 13 bakery locations throughout the United States as well as via an online care-package site and product lines in grocery stores such as Target and Whole Foods.
Tosi is currently the host of Netflix's Bake Squad series, has been a judge on Fox's MasterChef Junior series and was the subject of an episode of the Netflix docuseries, Chef's Table. She's the author of four cookbooks: Momofuku Milk Bar (2011), Milk Bar Life: Recipes and Stories (2015), Milk Bar: All About Cake (2018) and Milk Bar: Kid’s Only (2020).
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove's research has spanned zoonotic, respiratory and emerging/re-emerging diseases such as avian influenza, MERS, SARS, COVID-19, Ebola, Marburg, plague and Zika. Of particular interest are factors associated with transmission between animals and humans, the epidemiology of zoonotic pathogens, and ensuring that research directly informs public health policies for action.
Van Kerkhove completed her undergraduate degree at Cornell University, an MS Degree in epidemiology at Stanford University and a PhD in infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Prior to joining WHO in 2017, she was the Head of the Outbreak Investigation Task Force at Institut Pasteur's Center for Global Health in Paris, where she was responsible for establishing public health rapid response teams for infectious disease outbreaks. Her previous roles include a senior fellow at Imperial College London in the MRC Center for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling and epidemiologist at the Institut Pasteur in Cambodia.
Prior to joining TED as current affairs curator, Whitney Pennington Rodgers produced for NBC's primetime news magazine Dateline NBC. She earned a duPont-Columbia award and a News & Documentary Emmy or her contributions to the Dateline NBC hour "The Cosby Accusers Speak" -- an extensive group interview with 27 of the women who accused entertainer Bill Cosby of sexual misconduct.
Pennington Rodgers has worked at NBC's in-house production company Peacock Productions, The Today Show, Nightly News, Rock Center with Brian Williams and New Jersey-centric public affairs shows Caucus: New Jersey and One-on-One with Steve Adubato. Prior to beginning her career in media, she had a short stint as a fourth-grade teacher through the Teach for America program.
Pennington Rodgers received her Bachelor's in journalism and media studies from Rutgers University. She completed her Master's of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, where she produced a documentary about recruitment of nonblack students at historically black colleges and universities.
In 1992, Kathryn Kolbert argued Planned Parenthood v. Casey before the US Supreme Court. It was only her second appearance, but one that has been widely credited with saving Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision protecting a pregnant woman's right to have an abortion.
A cofounder of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Kolbert has spent her career working to ensure that all people, wherever they live, whatever their life circumstances, whatever their age or race or LGBTQIA+ status, have the ability to choose whether to be a parent and obtain safe, legal abortions. Perhaps more than anyone, she understands how we got here, what's at stake -- and how the reproductive freedom movement can move forward.
A cofounder of the Athena Film Festival, Kolbert also created the Athena Center for Leadership at Barnard College and NPR's Justice Talking.
Tiana Epps-Johnson is founder and executive director of the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), where she leads a team using technology to modernize the voting experience in the US. Prior to CTCL, she spent three years as the election administration director at the New Organizing Institute. She previously worked on the Voting Rights Project for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights.
A 2021 Emerson Collective Dial Fellow and a recipient of the 2020 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, Epps-Johnson was part of the inaugural cohort of Obama Foundation Fellows in 2018. She was also a Technology and Democracy fellow at the Harvard Ash Center in 2015.
Aarathi Krishnan works at the intersections of humanitarian futures, strategic foresight and systems thinking. She is an affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University as well as a Technology and Human Rights Fellow at Harvard's Carr Center for Technology and Human Rights, where she works on foresight and decolonial technology ethics in humanitarian technology governance.
Inherently curious about how things work and why they don't, Krishnan is passionate about needing to shift underlying assumptions to drive change. She pushes and provokes on issues of inclusion, intersectionality, power and privilege -- and particularly explores how these come together in ways that influence our drive to do good.
Melanie Charles is a Brooklyn-born singer, songwriter, bandleader, producer, actress and flautist of Haitian descent. She was raised by a Haitian mother in Brooklyn, where her home was filled with the sounds of artists including Frank Sinatra, Chaka Khan and Anita Baker. She attended the famed LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts in New York City, where she studied flute and vocals. She went on to study at the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music at The New School.
Throughout her career, Charles has remained committed to making music that pushes listeners to consider new possibilities, both socially and politically. "Make Jazz Trill Again," a project she launched in 2016, demonstrates her allegiance to taking jazz from the museum to the streets.
Michèle Lamont's research shows how judgements about morality are used to validate all kinds of exclusion, and how shared views on "who matters" shape social hierarchies. Her wide-ranging work dives deeply into an examination of, say, how members of stigmatized groups respond to rejection or the role culture plays in poverty.
Lamont has taught at Harvard University for nearly 20 years, having spent the previous fifteen years at Princeton University. At Harvard, she is a member of the Departments of Sociology and African and African-American Studies, and she holds the Robert I. Goldman Chair in European Studies. She is the recipient of honorary doctorates from universities in six countries and has received international honors such as the 2017 Erasmus Prize and the 2014 Guttenberg Award. Her books include The Dignity of Working Men and the forthcoming What We Value.
Candace Parker is a bold, insightful and inspiring thought leader who is passionate about women's rights, voters' rights and the Black Lives Matter movement. In her 14th season as a professional basketball player, she recently led the Chicago Sky to victory in the WNBA championship. In September, 2021, she became the first female athlete to be featured on the cover of the cult favorite video game NBA 2K.
An astute analyst of basketball, Parker is also focused on understanding the highs and lows of all parts of life. Her podcast, Moments with Candace Parker, celebrates parenthood to the fullest -- the smallest victories, the messiest failures and the bravest decisions.