Study finds increase in women giving TED talks but not ethnic minorities

Study finds increase in women giving TED talks but not ethnic minorities
Julie Freeman at TED talks Juliana Rotich on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/afropicmusing/15462562052/ Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Women gave more than half of TED talks in the first half of 2017, up from less than one-third in 2006, according to a new study published in Political Research Exchange. But the German research team also found that ethnic minorities remain under-represented as TED speakers, giving just one in five talks over the same time period.

"Our results raise some concerns, particularly about the representation of certain ethnic groups in these talks," says lead author Carsten Schwemmer from the University of Bamberg. "This highlights the importance of diversity to reduce stereotypes about scientists and people driving societal change."

Since 2006, talks given at TED events and conferences have become an important means for communicating latest developments in science, culture and society, with the talks streamed online to a global audience of millions. Many well-known scientists, politicians and businesspeople have given TED talks, including Stephen Hawking, Al Gore and Elon Musk. But this has raised concerns that TED talks are being dominated by and their interests. This is what Schwemmer and his colleague, Sebastian Jungkunz, set out to explore.

To do this, they used facial recognition technology to determine the gender and ethnicity of speakers giving 2,333 TED talks between 2006 and 2017, representing all those available on YouTube's main TED channel. They also applied automated text analysis to transcripts of the talks, to determine the main topics being discussed, and to 1.2 million comments left by viewers of the talks on YouTube, in order to assess reaction and feedback.

While this kind of analysis of the representation of, and attitudes towards, different groups in traditional media is quite common, it is much rarer for . This study was one of the first to apply facial recognition techniques to social science research. In their study, the researchers also advocate for responsible use, and support initiatives like Safe Face Pledge, which provides guidelines for ethic principle of facial analysis technology.

Schwemmer and Jungkunz found that the proportion of women giving TED talks had increased steadily since 2006, which they attributed to efforts by the TED organization to achieve a more balanced gender representation. But the proportion of speakers from non-white ethnic groups had remained fairly static over the same time, at just one in five. As a consequence, white men still made up just over half (56%) of all speakers between 2006 and the first half of 2017.

Talks discussing inequalities such as violence against women and racism, which the researchers thought would be particularly important for women and ethnic minorities, were also in a minority, accounting for just 3% of talks, although this proportion did rise over time. These talks also received more than talks on other topics, perhaps, say the researchers, because they often contained depressing rather than entertaining content. However, the study also found that non-white TED speakers received more positive online comments than white speakers, but that female speakers received more negative and hateful comments than male speakers.

"Digital content providers like TED media should increase their efforts to prevent that talking about science and important matters of societal change on a global stage remains a privilege of white people," concludes Schwemmer. "Otherwise, under-representation of certain ethnic groups in the digital sphere can, similar to sources, further enhance stereotypes and negative attitudes."


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More information: Political Research Exchange, www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/1 … 474736X.2019.1646102
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User comments

Sep 02, 2019
Maybe they got nothing to say???

Sep 02, 2019
Glenn Lowry and John McWhorter were unavailable for comment.

https://youtu.be/b6EeJVL0KZs

TED with the Black Guys from Bloggingheads.tv

What are the odds that the only Black American intellectuals I listen to regularly on podcasts and youtube give talks at TED?

Sep 03, 2019
A survey of technical and scientific fields will reveal there are plenty of ethnic woman capable of doing "TED Talks." But those are predominantly ASIAN. The number of black people can be counted on two hands.

Sep 03, 2019
Why do they even need TED?
Anyone with anything to say can now post a video on YouTube to a worldwide audience.

How is this targeting of TED, not harassment?

Sep 03, 2019
Why do they even need TED?
Anyone with anything to say can now post a video on YouTube to a worldwide audience.


There's always a political slant with TED talk topics.

Sep 03, 2019
TED is glib claptrap for post-modern minute attention spans.

The explanatory narrative is the witchdoctor's tool; but wait, if you don't believe me then you haven't listened long enough.

Read the book, its truth or falsity is there forever and so are all of the citations.

Sep 03, 2019
Why do they even need TED?
Anyone with anything to say can now post a video on YouTube to a worldwide audience.


There's always a political slant with TED talk topics.


Some topics are political. Seems difficult to believe subjects such as, "How to get your brain to focus", are political.

Sep 03, 2019
What is TED, and why do I care about the skin color of whoever gives the talk?
Is the skin color of the TED talker important for understanding the talk?

Or maybe Carsten Schwemmer from the University of Bamberg just needed to publish a paper for career purposes, and found anything that looks like discrimination to scream about it?

Sep 03, 2019
I had to google TED. It's an acronym for technology, entertainment, and design.

They are not suggesting there is discrimination in the nomination process so
sooner or later more ethnic minorities will enter the mix as they enter the nomination process and submit "ideas worth spreading."

Why force it the diversity?
What is the rush?
Why not just let the diversity increase naturally over time?

This is a non-issue. If they want more diversity advertise more and invite more to submit their ideas regardless of ethnicity. Individuals can nominate themselves.

I'm thinking they will eventually confirm "ideas not worth spreading" just to meet their diversity goals.

Oct 15, 2019
LOL
What IS it with these folks and their silly, laughable hang-ups about White men giving talks? Do they intend for TED to drag minorities on stage kicking and screaming even if they have nothing of great importance to talk about to their audience? IIRC, Neil deGrasse Tyson was one of the speakers, and he spoke about science as a physicist would. But unless a speaker has the personality to BE on-stage and has a strong presence and be on-point as to his or her topic, there is no sense to worry whether or not a minority will get up on the stage to talk about his forte'. Even Elon Musk seemed just a tad nervous as he made his presentation with his Starship in the background.
Incidentally. Elon Musk is South African. Wouldn't that qualify him as being a minority?

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