The second week of December was a busy one for California Secretary of State Debra Bowen (right). After all, her office is  still busy certifying the results of the November 4 election. But on Wednesday, November 8, there was only one place she wanted to be: giving the keynote speech at TEDx Women Bay Area, one of dozens of simultaneous TED Women conferences happening all over the world.

TEDWomen is one of the newest initiatives of the 26-year-old international think tank TED (Technology, Environment Design), whose mission is to help create “Ideas Worth Spreading.” Since 2001, millions have heard some of these ideas as “Ted Talks” — online audio and video lectures by artists, scientists and other innovative thinkers. In its annual conferences, TED works to bring experts in diverse fields “out of their silos,” in the hope that a mix of such great minds will cross-pollinate and help solve big problems.

The goals of the TedWomen organizers were no smaller: their flagship event, in Washington, D.C., included former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, New Yorker columnist Liza Donnelly, and two Somali refugee experts, Dr. Hawa Abdi and Dr. Deqo Mohamed.  And on Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took the mike, telling the attendees that while scheduling had been tight, “the minute I heard there was going to be a TEDWomen, I knew I had to be here.”

Why have a TEDWomen? One example from the Washington event, held at the Paley Center for Media, was the insight offered by Icelandic financier  Halla Tomasdottir, who spoke of how “feminine values” had helped her cope with her country’s financial crisis — a crisis turbocharged by her male peers’ love of risk. “We need to embrace the beauty of balance,” Tomasdottir told the gathered experts:

A similarly accomplished roundup was presented by the organizers of TEDx Women Bay Area:  social media consultant Tatyana Kanzaveli, FutureTalkTV’s Mei Ling Fung, and Francine Gordon, Chair of SDForum Tech Women. The event began with a keynote from  Bowen, only the sixth woman in California history elected to a statewide constitutional office,  who, as a state legislator, pioneered laws making public information available on the Internet. Bowen’s love of technology didn’t blind her to the many problems presented by early voting machines, as she described in her keynote, entitled: “Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Paper Ballot.”

Bowen was just the beginning. Some other highlights of TedX Bay Area included:

  • Stanford University labor economist Myra Strober:
  • Elena Danielson, an archivist from the Hoover Institution:

and the Mayo Clinic’s Deborah Rhodes, sharing the potential of molecular breast imaging as an eventual alternative to mammography.

And all of that is just a taste of what the week had to offer. At the links provided above by you’ll find complete speakers’ lists, as well as an invitation to apply to be a TED Fellow. And Huffington Post was live-blogging and tweeting all of TedWomen, including a closing address from the acclaimed Eve Ensler. We’d love to hear what you think of it all, especially since we think of WVFC as one of those “ideas worth spreading.”

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