25 inspiring TED Talks by some of the world's most creative women

Illustration by Jane Bowyer, commissioned by Creative Boom for International Women's Day 2019

Want to reinvigorate your creative mojo? The TED archives are packed full of inspiring talks from the world's best designers, artists, illustrators and business leaders.

To celebrate International Women's Day, we've collaborated with Shillington to pull together 25 of the most inspirational and enlightening talks from creative women. All these videos are free to watch at the click of a button. So what are you waiting for?

1. The revolutionary power of diverse thought: Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak is a Turkish-British novelist, essayist, academic, public speaker and women's rights activist who has experienced firsthand the devastation that a loss of diversity can bring. In this passionate, personal talk, she makes a passionate case for plurality against authoritarianism and argues that there are no binaries, in politics, emotions and our identities.

2. Lessons in Creativity: Julie Burstein

Radio host Julie Burstein talks with creative people for a living, and, as a result, has learned a thing or two about how to be creative. In this nicely structured talk, she shares four lessons about how to create in the face of challenge, self-doubt and loss, sharing insights from filmmaker Mira Nair, writer Richard Ford, sculptor Richard Serra and photographer Joel Meyerowitz.

3. Pirates, nurses and other rebel designers: Alice Rawsthorn

Alice Rawsthorn OBE is a British design critic who writes about design for the international edition of The New York Times. In this uniquely original talk, she highlights the work of unlikely heroes, from Blackbeard to Florence Nightingale, and draws a line between them and the greatest designers who, she argues, are often the most rebellious ones.

4. Why we have too few women leaders: Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook and in 2012 became the first woman to serve on its board. In this honest and enlightening talk, she looks at why a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions and offers three powerful pieces of advice to women aiming for advancement.

5. Lessons on building a company people enjoy working for: Patty McCord

Best known for her past role as chief talent officer at Netflix, Patty McCord’s talk looks at why most companies suck to work for, and how to throw out the rulebook and flip that on its head. The key, she argues, is to abandon rigid policies such as mandated vacation days, travel guidelines, standard work hours and annual goals, and try to trust rather than control your employees.

6. A hilarious celebration of lifelong female friendship: Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin

American actress, producer and activist Jane Fonda has been friends with actress and comedian Lily Tomlin for decades. In this raw, tender and wide-ranging conversation hosted by Pat Mitchell, the three discuss longevity, feminism, the differences between male and female friendship, and women's role in future of our planet.

7. The Art of Asking: Amanda Palmer

Don't make people pay for music, says American musician Amanda Palmer: let them. In a passionate talk that begins in her days as a street performer, she examines the new relationship between artist and fan in the world of the 21st century.

8. The stories behind the New Yorker's iconic covers: Françoise Mouly

Françoise Mouly has been the art director of The New Yorker, a magazine famous for its cover art, since 1993. In this visual retrospective, she considers how a simple drawing can cut through the torrent of images that we see every day and elegantly capture the feeling and sensibility of a moment in time.

9. Why some of us don't have one true calling: Emilie Wapnick

Not sure you want to do just one thing for the rest of your life? Well, you're not alone. In this illuminating talk, writer and artist Emilie Wapnick describes the kind of people she calls "multipotentialites", who have a range of interests and jobs over one lifetime.

10. Where does creativity hide?: Amy Tan

Amy Tan is an author best known for her novel The Joy Luck Club. Attempting to answer the question of where her creativity comes from, she digs deep in this talk, journeying through her childhood and family history and into the worlds of physics and chance… and there’s somewhat of a surprise ending.

11. Paula Scher gets serious: Paula Scher

American Paula Scher is one of the world’s best-known graphic designers. The first female principal at Pentagram, which she joined in 1991, she’s known for designing everything from album covers to the Citibank logo. In this must-see talk, she looks back at her life in design and pinpoints the moment when she started really having fun.

12. Why do I make art? To build time capsules for my heritage: Kayla Briët

Californian Kayla Briët creates art that explores identity and self-discovery, and the fear that her culture may someday be forgotten. In this inspiring talk, she explains how she found her creative voice and reclaimed the stories of her Dutch-Indonesian, Chinese and Native American heritage by infusing them into film and music time capsules.

13. Your body is my canvas: Alexa Meade

Alexa Meade is an American installation artist best known for painting directly onto the human body, in a way that collapses depth and makes her models appear two-dimensional when photographed. In this eye-opening talk Meade shares images of some of the more outlandish results, as well as a new project involving people, paint and milk.

14. Stories cut from paper: Béatrice Coron

With scissors and paper, French artist Béatrice Coron creates intricate worlds, cities and countries, heavens and hells. Striding onstage in a glorious cape, she describes her creative process and the way her stories develop from snips and slices.

15. How a video game might help us build better cities: Karoliina Korppoo

Part game, part urban planning sketching tool, ‘Cities: Skylines’ encourages people to use their creativity and self-expression to rethink the cities of tomorrow. Finnish designer Karoliina Korppoo takes us on a tour through some extraordinary places users have created, from futuristic fantasy cities to remarkably realistic landscapes.

16. Why I brought Pac-Man to MoMA: Paola Antonelli

In 2012, Paola Antonelli, senior curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art, announced the acquisition of 14 video games. All hell broke loose. In this far-ranging and entertaining talk, she explains why she's delighted to challenge preconceived ideas about art and galleries.

17. How giant websites design for you and a billion others too: Margaret Gould Stewart

Facebook's "like" and "share" buttons are seen 22 billion times a day, making them some of the most-viewed design elements ever created. In this fascinating talk, Margaret Gould Stewart, Facebook's director of product design, outlines three rules for designing a system at such a massive scale.

18. Chasms: Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes

A writer and activist from New Orleans, Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes lights up the TED stage in her talk with a powerful poem about hope, truth and the space between who we are and who we want to be.

19. Fun, fierce and fantastical African art: Wanuri Kahiu

We're so used to narratives out of Africa being about war, poverty and devastation, says Kenyan film director, producer, and author Wanuri Kahiu: but where's the fun? In her compelling talk, she introduces AfroBubbleGum: African art that's vibrant, lighthearted and without a political agenda.

20. Grow your own clothes: Suzanne Lee

Suzanne Lee is a Brooklyn-based fashion designer working in fashion and future technologies. In this eyebrow-raising talk, she shares her experiments in growing a kombucha-based material that can be used as fabric to make clothing.

21. How I'm using LEGO to teach Arabic: Ghada Wali

After a visit to a European library in search of Arabic and Middle Eastern texts turned up only titles about fear, terrorism and destruction, award-winning designer Ghada Wali resolved to represent her culture in a fun, accessible way. The result, as she explains in this compelling talk, was a colourful, engaging project that uses LEGO to teach Arabic script, harnessing the power of graphic design to create positive change.

22. The world needs all kinds of minds: Mary Temple Grandin

Mary Temple Grandin is an American professor of animal science at Colorado State University. She was diagnosed with autism as a child, and in this open and revealing talk, she explores exactly how her mind works. This includes an ability to "think in pictures", which helps her solve problems that neurotypical brains might miss. She makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids.

23. Taking imagination seriously: Janet Echelman

American artist Janet Echelman only found her true voice when her paints went missing, which forced her to look to an unorthodox new art material. As a result, she now makes billowing, flowing, building-sized sculptures with a surprisingly geeky edge, as she explains in this captivating talk.

24. The illustrated woman: Maira Kalman

Maira Kalman is an Israeli-born American illustrator, writer, artist, and designer. In this enlightening and lively talk, she discusses her life and work, from her covers for The New Yorker to her books for children and grown-ups.

25. Tales of passion: Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende is a Chilean writer whose novels, including The House of the Spirits and City of the Beasts, have made her one of the world’s most widely read Spanish-language authors. She’s also an activist, and in this passionate and life-affirming talk, she discusses women, creativity and what feminism really means in today’s world.

In association with