TEDxAccra, the local chapter of TED Global, hosted its first signature women’s flagship event, TEDxAccraWomen, on Friday the 28th of October.
Themed “It’s about time,” the 2016 inaugural TEDxAccraWomen conference featured powerful and change-making women from diverse backgrounds who shared their unique ideas, stories of accomplishment and tenacity.
The first speaker to open up the TEDxAccraWomen story time session was Dr. Heather Beem, founder of Practical Education Network. She based her talk on the study of science and how it can be taught effectively. She made reference to a study released by the World Bank which states that engineering and science are directly related to a country’s GDP. Countries that have high GDP also have strong skill base of scientists and engineers. Heather revealed that if Ghana wants to move up this chart, it needs more scientists and engineers. In trying to show how science can be taught easily by using simple materials for students to grasp, Heather did a practical demonstration of how respiration takes place in humans by using a plastic bottle, a polythene, and a balloon. She went further to demonstrate how an acid-base reaction occurs by inverting a balloon filled with baking soda (represents a base solution) over a plastic bottle filled with vinegar (represents an acid solution). In the end, the balloon expanded as a result of the reaction between the vinegar and the baking soda.
Heather Beem revealed that it as a result of trying to make the teaching of science easier for students to understand that informed her decision to form Practical Education Network. They’ve been visiting communities across the country for the past two years running training programs for science teachers. “Teachers are at the heart of what we do. We believe that they are the ones that will sustain and change the way that science is taught and learned in the classroom” she added.
Dalia Akl, Head of Sales and Marketing for Coolink Ghana was the 2nd speaker to mount the TED stage. Her talk was based on the art of storytelling. Dalia stated that storytelling is very important because stories are one of the most powerful emotional curiosities humans possess which make people feel and act. There are several ways of telling stories depending on culture. She made reference to the hula dance of Hawaii which is a unique dance accompanied by chant or song that preserves and perpetuates the stories, traditions, and culture of Hawaii. She also made reference to an ancient form of storytelling and entertainment in china where flat articulated figures (shadow puppets) are used to create cut-out figures which are held between a source of light and a translucent screen. According to research, the average human attention span has been decreasing over time from about 12 seconds in the year 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013 which is a second short of the average attention span of a goldfish. Dalia revealed that it is as a result of this fact that the likes of Twitter have a maximum length of 140-word characters and Snapchat have a 10second duration for watching snaps just to make storytelling short.
“We’re all born storytellers. This is a skill that somehow comes along with our human DNA. However, we can all become better at this skill by keeping our stories short, framing them according to our audiences and ending on a strong note” Dalia concluded.
The CEO and founder of EDEL Technology consulting Ethel Cofie reminisced about how she had unflinching support from her parents in what she calls “external permission and external validation” even in the midst of her failures when she started her technology consulting company.
“I’ve also always had the permission to fail. Before I was named one of the top 5 women influencing technology in Africa, or before I started my company EDEL technology consulting, or before I found women in tech Africa which is the largest women in tech group on the continent, I was the girl that left her nice job in London to come to start a business in Ghana who failed. Even in that, they believed it was the journey to my greatness. I’ve always had external permission, external validation to be whom I want to be” she said.
The founder of Women in Tech Africa recounted how when her company won the IT consulting firm of the year she was widely congratulated but strangely, she didn’t hear from some people she respected and looked up to. She didn’t give it any serious thought. Later on, her company chalked a series of awards and when some people whom she looked up to were asked about her achievements, they passed comments meant to belittle her achievement. She was bothered initially but after pondering over it, she realized it didn’t matter what people thought about her.
She likened her success story to that of Dropbox which was touted to fail at its inception by the founder of Apple incorporated, Steve jobs but the cloud storage platform defied all odds and is now valued at 10 billion dollars.
“When you stand to show your gifts and talents to the world, you will naturally stir up some insecurities in others. It is not your job to soothe those insecurities. External validation is great and I’ve had wonderful validations in my life but to be truly great, you need to give yourself internal permission and internal validation” Ethel Coffie concluded.
The managing director of Twelve Springs Investment Group, Kristianne Reindorf spoke on the need for self-identity and living a purpose driven life.
“You’re far more than any one thing that you define yourself by. Don’t define yourself by what you’ve been told you can or can’t do because they just put limits on yourself. Don’t define yourself by any one role. Rather focus on your passions and what really motivates you because, in that, you will find your purpose. Your purpose not only gives direction as you move on the road towards life but it also helps you to set a target and a goal.” she said.
“Think about that thing that excites you and you’re passionate about. I want you to project yourself in your time machine to the future where you can see it before you. The more real it is for you, the more it will inform the direction of your life. The extent to which you can visualize and imagine is the extent to which you can actually drive forward towards that future because the more you can see it, the more real it is to you and the more effort and passion you can put into it.” She added
“Live your life in a meaningful way and strive to make an impact that you will be proud of so that when you look back on your time and how you spent it, you can do so with pride and know you lived your life that you were put on earth here to live” Kristianne Reindorf concluded.
The managing director of Internet Solutions Yvette Adounvo Atekpe commenced her talk by making reference to the likes of Georgina Theodora Wood (Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana) Theresa May (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom) Christine Lagarde (Managing Director of the MF) as testaments of what women are capable of achieving.
“I believe it’s about time women stop guessing themselves. We have achieved a lot. We have so many women today climbing the corporate ladder and achieving great things and making a positive difference. As women, we need to carve our own parks. We cannot afford to be given anything on a silver platter. We mustn’t be expecting quotas but rather build our own capacity. We must take our future into our own hands” she continued.
The managing director of Internet Solutions made reference to a gender report which indicates that companies that had a higher participation of women in decision-making were more profitable and had higher margins. “This is who we are. Let us continue to toot our horns and let everyone know that we need to be a lot more in the boardrooms, and in all the decision-making areas” she added.
“As women, we tend to make excuses that we do too much and are so inundated with work but it is not our preserve. Men also face it. What we ought to be looking at is collaboration. We’re not in competition with men. We need to collaborate and make partnerships. It is also important to realize that as women, we need to have a very successful network of women behind us otherwise it’s really difficult for us to stay in those boardrooms” Yvette Adounvo said.
Author: Desmond “Pappy” Tawiah, threesixtyGh writer