TEDxPittsburghWomen leaves audience with definition of “showing up”


Kaycee Orwig | Staff Photographer

Summer Lee — member-elect of the Pennsylvania State House — spoke at Pittsburgh’s TEDxWomen event Thursday night.

Isabelle Glatts

By Dylan Giacobbe, Staff Writer

From Nicole Heller’s elevated spot on stage in front of over 200 people, she could feel the energy in the room flow two ways. For her, not only was the audience taking from what she had to say, but in turn, she was taking from the audience’s silence.

“I leave very inspired and feeling a lot of gratitude that I could be a part of it and it makes me want to do more,” Heller said. “I noticed people were … really listening. So I’m sure that people are inspired and will go back and do things a little different in their lives.”

Heller, curator of the Anthropocene at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, was one of eight women to speak in TEDxPittsburgh Women’s 2018 event, “Showing Up.” The featured women talked about their lives, careers and what it meant to be a woman who pursues the message of the event — showing up.

With an opening act by The Clarion Quartet — a female-led musical group, and emcees Bridget Daley and Dominique Luster, the event brought together women of a variety of careers and backgrounds.

The women that spoke engaged with the audience by speaking about their own personal experiences in relation to the theme. At the same time, they sought to empower each other by discussing the diversity of challenges that women face.

Luster, the Teenie Harris archivist at the Carnegie Museum of Art, who co-hosted the event, said the theme, “showing up,” is living without hiding one’s true self and being active in achieving change or success.

“The theme of this event is showing up and that is our authentic selves really just coming forward and speaking our piece, saying what we need to say and standing by that, and to talk eloquently about the ideas that we believe in and the ideas that we want other people to learn more about,” Luster said.

The guest female speakers included Heller, Ph.D., Priya Amin, Amy Camp, M. Bernardine Dias, Ph.D., Sara Innamorato, Summer Lee, Jamilka Borges and Joanne Rogers. Each speaker took their own liberties in regard to the structure of their presentations, but the final speaker took a seat on stage for a different forum.

Rogers, Pittsburgh native and wife of the late Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” sat down for a question and answer with Daley, a local litigator and co-host. Rogers talked about the value of music in society, the legacy of her family and the importance of spreading kindness in the world.

“Fred so much wanted reconciliation, reconciliation in our country and our world,” Rogers said. “I just want things to be better and kinder. The word kind is the word we need to think about.”

Amin, the co-founder and CEO of Flexable, a company dedicated to providing on-site childcare at offices and events, said the purpose of the speeches and the event is getting people to be able to speak up and approach their problems.

“I think it’s really about how you get people who are having whatever issue may be happening in their life to then try to create something to try solve that problem,” Amin said.

Kaycee Orwig | Staff Photographer
Co-founder and CEO of Flexable Priya Amin speaks at a TEDxWomen event hosted in Ace Hotel.

Amin said many women have to face problems related to balancing childcare and work, but most sacrifice their work goals and responsibilities to care for their children. She said, however, it is possible to create solutions, which was her goal in creating her company.

“I always struggled with childcare professionally after I had my kids so I wanted to try to showcase that I did something about it,” Amin said.

Heller said it was valuable experience to speak at the event and share her ideas about humans connecting with nature.

“There were a lot of amazing ideas that emerged, but it was really powerful to be among this group of women,” Heller said. “All of the speakers are doing incredible work, really compassionate work about equity … among differently abled people, among gender and class.”

Heller said Rogers’ words about kindness brought together the many different ideas of “showing up” shared by the speakers.

“There was just this thread through it all about kindness and compassion and stepping up to express that in the world by not being OK with just being at home and thinking it, but actually making it happen in the world,” Heller said.

Beyond the stated purpose of the event — of sharing ideas and of defining and exemplifying “showing up” through the lives and words of the speakers — the audience was left with a definition of showing up from Lee, member-elect of the Pennsylvania State House for the 34th District.

Through her speech encouraging the audience to be politically active, Lee said being active to seek and create change is essentially what it means to show up, and everyone is capable of doing so.

“Before you tell someone they have to vote, encourage them, let them know all the ways they can participate in the system,” Lee said. “Just voting isn’t enough … we also have to run for offices, we have to organize, we have to support each other to create the society that we want to see.”