Life-Saving Cancer Research and Robot Talent Agencies: Behind the Scenes at TED Women

December 13, 2010, 8:41 PM HST
* Updated December 17, 4:49 PM
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By Katie McMillan

The TED Conference brings together the best minds and ideas from around the world.’s Katie McMillan was in attendance at the first ever TED Women’s Conference in Washington DC representing Maui.

From breakthrough advancements in breast cancer screening to social activists who have risked life and death to support human rights, the TED Women’s Conference brought together some of the world’s most innovative and remarkable leaders for a jammed packed two day event at the International Trade Center in Washington, DC.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Makes a Surprise Appearance at TED Women


From the moment I arrived, the air was filled with energy and excitement as women from all over the world converged to share in the experience of witnessing visionary thinking in action. Many high-profile women, including Donna Karan, Madeline Albright, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Arianna Huffington were there to share the stage alongside less well known but equally relevant, musical prodigies, robotics wizards, and media mavens.


TED felt like a “spa for your brain,” filled with many outstanding moments both on and off the stage. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Erika Bagnarello, a young filmmaker and TED fellow from Costa Rica. Erika told me about her experience boarding the Peace Boat to film a documentary about atomic bomb survivors titled Flashes of Hope: Hibakusha Traveling the World. Her film promotes nuclear disarmament and premiered at the United Nations in New York City. From one coastal community to another, Erika was a shining example of what it means to live up to our fullest potential.

TED Women also dramatically showcased the power of forgiveness when the mother of a young man killed at The World Trade Center on 9/11 join the stage with the mother of Zacarias Moussaoui, a convicted terrorist. They expressed how their friendship had developed over the years with both mothers having lost their sons.

The Food Network's Rachel Ray at TED Women

Immediately after Deborah Rhodes, Managing Director of the Mayo Clinic’s Executive Health Program, presented her ground-breaking research that dramatically increases breast cancer screening capabilities, I heard several women exclaim, “Why hasn’t 60 Minutes covered this?” I knew when she was giving her presentation that this was “big news” and is poised to save millions of lives.


One of the biggest thrills came when Elizabeth Lindsay took to the stage and spoke about Hawai’i and her mission to keep ancestral voices alive. Lindsey, who was named Hawai’i Woman of the Year in 2004, is now working with Google to create a geospatial map of the Human Story, using the indigenous science of wayfinding to chart tales at risk of being lost. She reminded the audience of approximately 400 people the importance of remembering our ancestral traditions.

What TED taught me was how important it is for us to come together in a dynamic and open forum to share our thoughts and ideas on how we can address the challenges that we face. It also taught me that we are all capable of greatness, no matter what our past may be.

TED stands for technology, entertainment, and design and was founded upon the principle that the power of good ideas can change attitudes and ultimately the world. Video’s of TED talks can be found by visiting Several video’s of speakers from the TED Women’s Conference are already available online. Sharing is highly encouraged.

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