I went to TEDWomen to hear the wisdom of rule breakers. Here’s what I learned from 6 innovators about their strategy for shaking up the world.

Jiabao Li speaks at TEDWomen 2019.

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Jiabao Li speaks at TEDWomen 2019.
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Marla Aufmuth / TED
  • Carole Zimmer has been a journalist for 30 years covering news for Bloomberg, NBC, National Public Radio, and public radio programs including Marketplace. She’s also the host of an award-winning podcast called “Now What?”
  • She went to TEDWomen to hear what disruptors, risk takers, and famous grandmas have to say about solving the world’s problems.
  • Zimmer asked six innovators what strategy they use every day to have a more positive attitude toward life, achieve their goals, and shake up the world.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The TEDWomen conference focuses on the power of women and girls to be change makers. It’s part of the TED brand that has become a virtual idea machine and a global powerhouse.

Carole Zimmer.

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Carole Zimmer.
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Courtesy of Carole Zimmer.

The cultural gabfest featured speakers who span several continents, including Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former President of Liberia, Vagina Monologues creator Eve Ensler, actress and climate activist Jane Fonda, and other risk takers who are trying to solve the world’s biggest problems.

Inspired by the presence of such women, I spoke to six different innovators and asked them, “What strategy do you use every day to shake up the world?”


Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity for the online security organization Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties organization, and organizer of the Coalition Against Stalkerware

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Eva Galperin.
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Carole Zimmer
  1. Talk to the people I want to help and listen to what they have to say about the best way to make that happen.
  2. Put a plan together and set achievable goals.
  3. Enjoy my wins and give myself credit for having moved the conversation forward. That’s how I’ll make sure that, by the end of 2020, antivirus software will offer stalkerware detection to discourage abusers who spy on their victims – and protect those victims from secret surveillance.

Yifat Susskind, executive director of Madre, an international human rights organization that supports women’s groups in places damaged by war and environmental disaster

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Yifat Susskind.
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Stacie McChesney / TED

I think like a mother. Mothers understand what it’s like to be responsible for the most vulnerable people – our children – and we can also imagine a better world. When I get up in the morning, I look at every meeting on my calendar and figure out the best role I can play in each one. Then I remind myself to bring along a sense of joy and fun.

When I come home from work, I get a lot of love from the first creature that greets me at the door: my dog, who doesn’t know anything about all the problems in the world. There’s something really grounding about getting that kind of pure devotion.


Abeer Abu Judeh, president and CEO of startup Lexdock, a technology company that allows clients to manage their own legal affairs

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Abeer Abu Judeh.
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Abeer Abu Judeh

Every day I look in the mirror and ask myself what I’m going to achieve next. Then I say, “Go get ’em.” I never give up. Maybe I’m so persistent because I’m a Muslim who was born in a refugee camp in Palestine, and we had to work very hard to achieve little things. To me, a “no” is not a rejection. It means try again. So every day, I work on building relationships, selling subscriptions, and trying to connect with the right investors who are going to help me grow my business.


Jiabao Li, perception engineer and prototype designer in consumer electronics. She creates projections and installations that explore how technology is transforming our perceptions.

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Jiabao Li.
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Marla Aufmuth / TED

I think all the time. When I run into a problem, I say I can figure this out. I’m always working on ways to make people realize that technology is designed to change what we see and what we think. I want to show that, in many ways, it has separated us from each other. By exploring how we interact with these technologies, I want to help people step out of their habitual, almost machine-like behaviors and find common ground with each other. I’m very optimistic. I feel the world is mine. I’m very optimistic.


Norma Pimentel, sister with the Missionaries of Jesus who works for the Catholic Church at detention facilities on the border between Texas and Mexico

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Norma Pimentel.
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Stacie McChesney / TED

I get up at 5:30 in the morning to say my prayers before going to mass. God is my compass. He’s the one I must connect with so that I know what he wants me to do for the day. I get my strength from god. That helps me to hold on to a sense of respect for life. Do I get tired? Definitely. But there’s also a sense of satisfaction in being able to do the right thing and be present with each person who’s hurting. Being present in the moment lets them know they’re not alone.


Alice Sheppard, disabled dancer who devotes herself to creating movement that challenges the conventional understanding of disabled and dancing bodies

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Alice Sheppard.
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Stacie McChesney / TED

The first thing I do every day is to try and get out of my own way, be in touch with my body, and let my body lead. Then I practice, practice, practice. Once I decided to do dance seriously, I knew I had to train to do difficult physical work, day after day, week after week. I’m fully living in each day. I’m working to make art. I’m really looking to make work that’s focused on using disability as an aesthetic and seeing how disability drives technological innovation. Yes, I’m very focused. I’m willing to turn the dance world on its ear.

Carole Zimmer is the host of the award-winning podcast “Now What?” Curated conversations with people you want to know. (Subscribe for free here.) She’s a journalist with more than 30 years of experience working in radio, television and digital media including Bloomberg News, NPR, and NBC. Her work has also appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, New York Magazine, and other publications. She has received numerous awards, including an Edward M. Murrow award for her radio documentary, “Stalking a Silent Killer.” You can find more of her work at carolezimmer.com.