LISTEN: The TEDWomen conference is a yearly event that celebrates and embraces the power of women to be both creators and changemakers. Previously held on the West Coast and in New York, it's coming to Georgia. GPB Morning Edition host Leah Fleming speaks with Pat Mitchell, the co-founder and editorial director for TEDWomen.

Women gathering to talk means big energy and big business. The annual TEDWomen conference, part of the famous TED talks that began in 2006 (TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design) celebrates and embraces the power of women to be both creators and changemakers. The event has been held on the West Coast and in New York. Now comes word that its new home for the next three years will be in Georgia. 

Pat Mitchell is the co-founder and editorial director for TEDWomen. Mitchell is also the first woman to own and host a nationally syndicated daily talk show and the first woman president of PBS. She’s also held management roles at CNN. GPB Morning Edition host Leah Fleming spoke with Mitchell recently.

Leah Fleming: TEDWomen and the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta are partnering to bring this conference to Atlanta. What made you decide to do this and how do you think it will benefit Georgians — especially women in Georgia?

Pat Mitchell: So I started talking about Atlanta and the Woodruff Arts Center as a perfect partnership nearly five years ago. But it took some convincing. Actually, when the head of conferences came to Atlanta, she was so completely impressed by the women she met in this city and around the state, by the community leaders that she saw leading organizations and businesses. She just looked at me and she said, “Now I know what you've been talking about!”  This is a city and a state that mirrors in so many ways the inclusive value, the diversity value, the global value, the innovation, entrepreneurship, all the things that we like to focus on and the TED talks that are given at TEDwomen, this city and this state exemplifies all of it.

Leah Fleming: Women are certainly, I think, showing up a lot in terms of the political landscape. And I'm wondering, what do you think about women showing up in those spaces? Do you think we are doing a good job as women or do we need to be perhaps doing more, showing up a little bit more?

Pat Mitchell: One of the things that I am the proudest of about TEDWomen is that women show up. Over the years we've had women presidents, women who lead parliaments, women who lead school boards and community organizations. We're very much interested, as I think all women are, at looking at not only ways to obtain and go for leadership, but ways to use it differently once we have it. And that is one of the things we're thinking about for next year. Leah, I’ll give you a little secret right now because we haven't announced this yet. But I think it's a really important subject for us to talk about. And that is how women are using our power, our influence, our leadership. Once we get there and we know the struggles and barriers to get there, what are we doing with it that's different? How are we changing the nature of power?

Leah: So you are the author of a memoir. It's titled Becoming a Dangerous Woman; Embracing Risk to Change the World. I know that you have said the most dangerous thing that we can do as women is support one another. Talk a little bit about that. And what do you mean?

Pat Mitchell:  I mean, what you said earlier: showing up. If we show up for each other at the polls, you as voters; in the workplace, when it becomes a matter of sponsoring or mentoring or elevating another woman at work; showing up as friends, when we need that sympathetic ear or we need that word of advice; I do believe it's the most powerful thing we have to offer each other — is being there, showing up, being there for each other, supporting each other. Have we done that? I believe we would be in many, many more positions of leadership — and not just for the point of numbers, but for the point of sharing power — because we know that a balance works best in all situations. So we very much want to bring our male allies along with us, too. The other way that I've observed women risk takers, is that they've been willing to speak up. To speak up when there was injustice anywhere — either to them or around them or in their communities — to speak up about it. And then the second thing I think of as dangerous is being willing to speak out in a room where decisions are being made about the people who aren't there. And to insist that there is a greater balance of perspectives, experiences, points of view in every room where important decisions are made about our lives, our bodies, our country, our communities. So speaking out, showing up, those are the three ways in which I define dangerous and living as we do in dangerous times. I think we all need to embrace a bit more of that dangerousness, and that clearly exists in all of us.

Pat Mitchell is the co-founder and editorial director for TEDWomen, which is next held in Atlanta beginning Oct. 11 through Oct. 13, 2023.