"Exhibiting You" - Story

Nilofer Merchant

Submitted: 12/31/1969

Nilofer's Selections

Digital Livelihoods for the World’s Women

Samasource is an incredible organization that has traveled to some of the poorest parts of the world to increase opportunities for women to engage in digital work. Their programs have allowed for marginalized women to participate in this digital revolution and work their brains instead of their bodies. Samasource is setting an example by investing in this untapped resource. Go to the selection >>

Wipe It Off and I Will Paint Again

In this interview, SuzeeInTheCity explains how Egyptians are using graffiti to challenge their government, and speak against the criminalization of protest and activism. I loved learning about how the Egyptian uprising has lived on in public art pieces and the ways Egyptians are taking back their own streets. Go to the selection >>

Malaysia’s Star Everywoman

What an innovative way to catch the public’s attention! Mak Bedah is a character created by the Women’s Candidacy Initiative in Malaysia to engage women in politics. She engages pop culture to give young Malaysian women a chance to see themselves reflected within the media. She is a perfect example of someone looking to creatively reframe this world for the better. Go to the selection >>

The Male Breadwinner Model – How a 19th Century Theory Limits Women’s Economic Opportunities

When a group of children begging on the street told Liza Chawla that they wanted to study, she listened. She founded Chhoti Si Asha and began providing skills training to street children. Liza thought outside of governmental structures that had been ignoring these children and took her own path to change a problem she had identified within her community. Go to the selection >>

MAMA Hero: Joan Blades

I believe in helping women be the best innovators, thinkers, and workers that they can be. No one should have to choose between having children and excelling professionally, and Joan Blades - an advocate for mother’s workplace rights - is pushing for a world with equitable laws that allow us to succeed in both. Go to the selection >>

MAMA Hero: Marusia Lopez Cruz

In her interview, Marusia thoughtfully explains how she lives her life as a mother and an activist. As someone who has started to prioritize my own self-care at the same level as my work, I can relate to the constant balance she struggles to maintain. I’ve learned over the years that this balance does not get easier, instead we learn to prioritize what is important for us in the long run.  Go to the selection >>

Follow the Leader: A Film Portrait of Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

Powerful women often face increased scrutiny, criticism and pushback for the work they do. I’ve personally worked within many environments where I was one of few women, and it’s been difficult at times. I hold nothing but deep respect for Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a self-identified “Iron Lady” who has done incredible work to restore peace to war-weary Liberia. Go to the selection>>

Insanity, Entrepreneurship and a World of Good

I love the way Priya describes starting a business as if it were a piece of art. It takes creativity and ambition, and the ability to think in the “big picture.” As an entrepreneur myself, I’ve always felt that my work is my way of recreating the world the way I imagine it, and Priya is doing just that. Go to the selection >>

Egypt: We Are Watching You: Three Egyptian Women Use the Internet to Promote Democracy

In 2005, when Egypt’s then President Hasnain Mubarek announced the country’s first multi-party elections, three women decided that they could not stand by and simply hope that the elections were free and fair. They took matters into their own hands, and with no background in political activism, they used the internet and the power of the Egyptian people to accomplish this project. Now that’s what I call initiative! Go to the selection >>

Democracy Over the Airwaves

Not all women have access to Twitter or Facebook to insert their thoughts into narratives that have historically excluded them. These women use the radio to circumvent bureaucratic channels of government and promote dialogue around their visions for change. Go to the selection >>

Curator's Statement: Nilofer Merchant on Revolutionaries

Most of us long to make a dent in the universe, to leave a world that’s different and better than the one we were born into. However, short of being some singular giant, the only way that we could pursue this goal consciously and systematically has been by joining an institution – a company, the military, the government, or the church – and rising in its ranks until we acquire sufficient power to bend it to our purposes. The only problem is that these institutions were designed to empower those who are already in power. Many women face discrimination and glass ceilings within male-dominated institutions, so that by the time we get the power--assuming we get it at all--we’ve probably lost the fire. Or bought into the status quo. 

And, why is that? It’s because of how power has worked. In Warren Bennis’ book, Organizing Genius, he speaks of Steve Jobs’ famous Macintosh team at Apple Computer. Jobs got people to give freely of their ideas in the service of what they believed to be a greater purpose. This team went above and beyond, because they had a vision of what computing could be, and by designing a great product they felt they were contributing something to humanity. But the invisible framework in Apple’s story of creative genius is this: all the people had to be first be picked, employed. They had the “right” qualifications, they had already been vetted by the powers-that-be, and chosen because they were “the best”. Too often, “the best” are comprised only of men. 

To truly think differently we have to reframe power. This goes beyond meritocracy; it is more of an “all together now” strategy: enabling those who want, to create value – without gatekeepers or limitations. That’s why I chose these stories – they all reflect the women revolutionaries who are reframing the world outside of the boundaries of an institution. They show us that anybody – quite possibly everybody – can change the way we see the world.


About Nilofer

Having personally launched more than 100 products, netting $18 Billion in sales, Nilofer Merchant knows what it means to lead teams to invent the next big thing. From working with Steve Jobs at Apple, to defeating Microsoft in an epic industry battle, to advising the C-Suites of GE, IBM, and Logitech, she's got a world-class pedigree in knowing how to build market advantage. Recognized as a Best Business Book of 2012, her Harvard 11 Rules for Creating Value in the #SocialEra, published by Harvard Business Review Press, shares the formula for success in these modern and messy times.

Get to Know Nilofer

Learn more about Nilofer and why she's involved in IMOW's Curating Change.

  • IMOW matters to me because... it is a place for women to creatively redefine the world they live in.
  • A mantra to live by... Courage is contagious. –Ghandi
  • I Exhibit Change by... Embodying it (or, at least … aiming to embody it).

Take Action

Learn which causes and organizations matter most to Nilofer and how you can connect with them.

Vital Voices 

Vital Voices is an organization that trains women around the world to mentor other women and girls to be strong leaders. While acknowledging structural barriers that exist for women, within their trainings Vital Voices promotes agency and emphasizes the power women have to shape the world they want to live in, something deeply important to me.

Girl Rising

Girl Rising is a global campaign to increase access to education for girls around the world. Education has been instrumental in my own personal success, and I cannot imagine where I would be without it. By supporting Girl Rising, I am doing my part to ensure that someday, education becomes a right, and not a privilege for the world’s women.


Since launching TEDx 4 years ago, TED has enabled many “ideas that matter” to be shared, allowing ordinary citizens to do what once required a huge media budget. I have always believed in making the world’s tools and knowledge more accessible to everyone, and I think TED is an excellent example of that effort.

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