Photo: David M. Benett/Getty
By Polina Marinova
December 26, 2015

What would you say to the world after a decade of silence? What would you design if you could print out your clothes? What kind of leader would you be if you forgot everything you ever knew about leadership?

Top female leaders from all sorts of backgrounds appeared on the TED stage this year to give incredible talks that teach us what we don’t know—and challenge what we do. Here’s a look at our favorites from 2015:

Monica Lewinsky: ‘The Price of Shame’

After a decade of silence, Monica Lewinsky gave her first major public speech at the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit. Then, in March of this year, she stood on the TED stage and candidly discussed the public shaming she went through following her relationship with former president Bill Clinton. “In 1998, I lost my reputation and my dignity. I lost almost everything, and I almost lost my life,” she says. Her talk has received an impressive 6 million views since it was posted in March.

Dame Stephanie Shirley: ‘Why Do Ambitious Women Have Flat Heads?’

Dame Stephanie Shirley has a fascinating story. To get around the glass ceiling of the 1960s, she founded an all-woman software company in the UK. She even changed her name from “Stephanie” to “Steve” in her business development letters in order to get more meetings. Her company was ultimately valued at $3 billion—making 70 of her employees into millionaires. She explains, “You can always tell ambitious women by the shape of our heads: They’re flat on top for being patted patronizingly.”

Billie Jean King: ‘This Tennis Icon Paved the Way for Women in Sports’

Ever wonder what was going through tennis legend Billie Jean King’s head as she took on Bobby Riggs in “The Battle of the Sexes” match? She says, “If I lose, it’s going to put women back 50 years, at least.” She won that day—and she’s been winning on and off the court ever since. In an inspiring TED interview, King discusses the role of sports in social justice and pay inequality. Her message: Every single person is an influencer with the power to create social change.

Margaret Heffernan: ‘Why It’s Time to Forget the Pecking Order at Work’

There’s a good chance your workplace operates using the “superchicken model.” The former CEO of five businesses, Margaret Heffernan, explains this archetype, which places the highest value on star employees who outperform their colleagues. As it turns out, this can be very bad for business. In this captivating TED talk, Heffernan encourages the audience to radically re-define what it means to be a leader. “We won’t solve our problems if we expect it to be solves by a few supermen or superwomen,” she says.

Danit Peleg: ‘Forget Shopping. Soon You’ll Download Your New Clothes’

Notice anything odd about entrepreneur Danit Peleg’s skirt in this TED talk? What you may not guess is that she designed the garment on her computer, loaded the file on a 3D printer, and printed it overnight. Peleg created the first 3D-printed fashion collection using home printers. In a compelling 6-minute TED talk, Peleg explains how she turned her fashion school project into a revolutionary business.

Check out 2014’s most inspiring TED Talks by women leaders.

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