TED has wrestled with sexual harassment 'for years,' employees and attendees allege

TED has wrestled with sexual harassment 'for years,' employees and attendees allege

ted chris anderson

Gisela Giardino/Flickr

  • The Washington Post has reported on a string of sexual harassment claims made against TED staffers and conference attendees.
  • Internal emails show TED leadership discussing the proper course of action for dealing with the claims.
  • TED is famous for its viral online talks.

TED, the company made famous for its viral 18-minute talks, has for years been wrestling with sexual harassment at its flagship conference and within the company, The Washington Post reports.

At least five people told TED they'd been harassed or groped during the main TED Conference this past this April, including unwanted advances in a bar and at the conference itself, according to the Post.

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Attendees and staff claim it's been going on for years, and staff are aware

Ted Talks HQ

Sarah Jacobs/Business Insider

TED headquarters, located in New York City.

"We were alarmed by what we heard and immediately conducted full investigations to understand the context and impact of what had happened," TED wrote on its blog in response to the Post story. "As a result, one man was asked to leave the conference immediately, and a second barred. These two men were the source of the five complaints, and will not return to TED."


According to internal emails obtained by the Post, TED staffers - including Tom Rielly, the organization's director of partnerships, and Chris Anderson, the director for all of TED - have discussed the claims employees have leveled against other staff.

"I heard from so many women unprompted about the type of advances that were everywhere, and that felt 'different' from years past," Nishat Ruiter, TED's general counsel, wrote in one of the emails, according to the Post. "This included a TED Prize winner and two TEDsters who spoke to me about this and more than one staff member."

In the same email thread, Ruiter later relayed complaints she'd gotten from attendees, who'd said they'd been "jumped on" and "grabbed," according to Ruiter.

TED Senior Fellow Kristen Marhaver, along with Post reporter Colby Itkowitz, wrote on Twitter that they're familiar with TED's struggle to address sexual harassment claims.


kristen marhaver tweet

Twitter/Kristen Marhaver

colby itkowitz tweet

Twitter/Colby Itkowitz

Reports of harassment have come from inside the TED offices, too

Inside the TED offices, at least one employee claims to have experienced sexual harassment directly. Jordan Reeves, who worked at TED from 2010 to 2014, wrote in The Huffington Post that an executive had made a lewd comment about Reeves' genitals at a work party. Reeves, who was on the Office Culture Task Force, went on to explain that coworkers on the team felt harassed in their roles, too.

"We all felt conflicted - do we tell our stories and risk losing our job at TED and the community surrounding TED that we love so much, or do we carry on and deal with it as best we can?" he wrote.

TED has addressed the internal claims, according to its blog post. "For the sake of the individuals mentioned, we don't think it's appropriate to address them in public," the post read.


The stories come as part of an ongoing series of exposés related to harassment in the workplace, sparked by the October news of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's decades of assault. Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore and Sen. Al Franken are the latest to face sexual misconduct claims.

At the recent TEDWomen Conference, held in New Orleans, journalist Gretchen Carlson spoke on the ways companies can end sexual harassment at work and what can happen if they don't.

"Of all the women that reached out to me, almost none are still today working in their chosen profession," she said. "And that is outrageous."