This past Saturday, the Women’s Community Center (WCC) hosted its annual Stanford Women’s Leadership Conference. The conference was an opportunity for female students to learn practical skills, including self-marketing and negotiation, from female leaders.
Student Coordinators, Divya Siddarth ’18 and Yifan Huang ’16, along with WCC interns Audrey Huynh ’19 and Shanta Katipamula ’19, as well as the WCC’s Staff Directors, Faith Kazmi and Marta Hanson ’11, spearheaded the conference.
Huang explained the vision for the conference.
“Intersectional feminism was really important to both of us,” she said. “So we made that and helping our participants develop really practical and valuable skills.”
By focusing on intersectional feminism, the conference provided participants with a space in which to understand feminism and female leadership in the context of multiple identities, including class, race and sexual orientation.
Huang and Siddarth named the overarching theme of the conference “Hear My Voice.” Huang expressed hope that this theme would help translate the skills taught at the conference beyond this past weekend.
“With a lot of conferences you come away feeling super inspired, but you are left with: ‘What can I do?’ So… I hope that [the participants] take [away with them] a valuable toolkit.”
Siddarth explained how these objectives helped the Student Coordinators design the conference’s theme.
“We had all of these great ideas, and we decided on the theme ‘Hear My Voice’ because we thought it really encapsulated both the idea of practically and literally hearing women’s voices in places of leadership,” she said.
Their next hurdle was finding female leaders to both speak at the conference and lead workshops.
Siddarth added that finding strong speakers was one of the most important aspects of conference planning.
“We realized that the important thing is not how famous they are but how good of a speaker they are, which is an interesting difference because a lot of really famous people just don’t speak in places like this and just wouldn’t be good at it,” Siddarth said.
“We ended up focusing on people who we… [knew] would be really effective at communicating something we thought was really important,” she added.
The conference included three keynote speeches, a workshop session and a mentoring session.
The keynote speakers were Mauria Finley, founder and CEO of Citrus Lane, Jessica Ladd, founder and CEO of Sexual Health Innovations and Luoluo Hong, Vice President of Student Affairs at San Francisco State University. The speakers talked about their own careers, and gave advice as female leaders, for the next generation.
“Be brave, be smart, be humble, and lead us,” said Ladd.
Two workshops allowed participants to engage directly with female leaders. Meredith Fineman, the founder of FinePoint, led one workshop. Kimberly Ellis, the Executive Director of Emerge California, taught the other.
The day concluded with a mentoring session, where participants could engage with female leaders of their choice in smaller groups of around eight.
There were seven mentors, representing a diverse array of fields and leadership opportunities: Mary Boughton, Vice President of Global Engagement at Catalyst, Hannah K. Herdlinger, Head of Operations at LeanIn.Org, Marie Perruchet, journalist and tech consultant, Leah McGowan-Hare, Master Technical Trainer with Salesforce, Lydia Tan, Senior Vice President at Bentall Kennedy, Jane Nevins ’05, Marketing Manager at Minejet, and Shwetika Baijal, an Associate at 50+1 Strategies.
According to the Student Coordinators, 160 undergraduate and graduate students registered for this year’s Stanford Women’s Leadership Conference. These women represented a diversity of both interests and background.
Some of the participants also volunteered to help set up the conference, making gift bags and hanging up flyers. Among these volunteers is Natalie Gable ’19, a current intern at the WCC.
“I think that the topic of women in positions of power and leadership… is a huge problem that is not addressed a lot in daily conversation here. And so I am excited to be in this space where a lot of people are excited to be talking about this issue and engaging and hopefully changing the future of what this school looks like and how it approaches conversations around this topic,” said Gable.
Contact Blanca Andrei at bandrei ‘at’ stanford.edu.
A previous version of this article mispelled Baijal and Gable’s names. The Daily regrets this error.