Latinas Unidas (LU), a student-run organization at Harvard College, firmly believes that Latinas hold a wealth of untapped potential and skills that can benefit the larger community. Every year, LU plans the Latina Empowerment & Development Conference (LEAD) to foster a network of strong and talented Latina women.
The LEAD Conference began in 2007 when Bianca Caban (Harvard Class of 2009) gathered a team of committed leaders within Harvard's Latina community and organized a conference dedicated to facilitating the entrance of young Latinas into the network of professional minorities. The first Latina Empowerment & Development Conference took place on December 8th, 2007 and brought together speakers and a community of Latinas with a common culture that spanned many generations, professions, and interests.
LEAD connects career-minded individuals with successful Latina role models who radiate positive ideals and represent the larger Latino community, and addresses the social, political, and economic issues facing Latinas today. LEAD promotes the development of a professional network, introduces mentoring opportunities, and inspires women to reaffirm their commitment to their profession and goals.
Latinas Unidas de Harvard College is committed to creating an environment that promotes Latina leadership and empowerment. LU connects accomplished Latinas with their cultural hermanas, while continuously contributing to an increasingly diverse and talented workplace.
The LEAD Conference 2019 theme is: Leaving a Legacy.
Not pictured: Jessica Herrera, Valentina Gutiérrez, and Maribel Nava
Carolina Jimenez '21, Executive Director
Sociology and Government. I joined LEAD board because I wanted to be part of something that uplifts and empowers Latinas throughout the country. I wanted to play a role in helping expose Latinas to the numerous opportunities out there and to help reduce barriers to entry that we face in different fields. I hope that this year LEAD will inspire a new group of Latinas, and provide a space where they can express themselves fully and better understand their own identities. LEAD 2018 was one of my highlights of freshman year and I am extremely excited for LEAD 2019!
Maria Perez Franco '20, Executive Director
Economics with a secondary in Sociology . I've been on LEAD board since my freshman year, and I've been able to help with the past two conferences. Although it's a lot of work, I'm always so proud to be a part of something that brings so many incredible people together and really demonstrates how powerful Latina women can be. Along with this, I've made some of my closest friends through LU and LEAD and love being part of such a loving community. I hope that the conference this year can be even more inclusive and feature more representation from groups within the Latina community that are not normally represented.
Silvana Gomez ‘21, Director of Operations
Psychology with a secondary in Government. I joined LEAD because it allows me to provide a community for powerful Latinas to find their voices in a world that doesn’t always want to listen to us. LEAD is more than just a conference, it’s a statement. A statement of solidarity that creates a space for Latinas to come together and tell our own stories.
Valentina Gutiérrez ‘20, Associate Director of Operations
History & Literature. I joined LEAD board with the hope of diversifying the type of content the conference offers, so that there's a focus on artivism, local communities, and non-profit work. I also hope to include the greater New England Latinx community.
Laura Espinoza ‘22, Associate Director of Operations
Economics. I wanted to help be part of an initiative I always wished I could implement back home in D.C. I think LEAD is a great way to bring our community together at a time when we need to be collaborating and standing together to create change.
Ela Chavez ‘21, Director of Marketing
Cognitive Neuroscience & Evolutionary Psychology with a secondary in Studio Arts. I love the idea of using marketing tools in order to promote social change, so then I thought the LEAD conference would be an incredible opportunity for me to gain experience with topics I'm passionate about.
Maribel Nava ‘20, Director of Marketing
Sociology. Latinas Unidas has been a home away from home since my first year! At my first LEAD conference, I was amazed and inspired by the great work latina women were doing across fields. I knew I wanted to be a part of the team that put it on. I joined the LEAD board for a second year because it is rewarding to connect and learn from latina peers and professionals. I hope that all attendees can walk away from the conference with a support network, lessons learned and fun memories!
Lisette Leon ‘21, Associate Director of Marketing
Government. “I joined the LEAD board because I was in awe of everything that LEAD and those involved were able to accomplish last year. I saw the impact it had on those attending, those who planned it, and those who witnessed it in any way online. I knew it was an organization that I wanted to be a part of and be able to put my own efforts behind. This year, my hope is that the conference can impact girls from a wider scope of schools and backgrounds.
Mayerly Smith ‘20, Director of Corporate Relations
Economics. I was really inspired by LEAD 2018 and wanted to get involved somehow. I also want to work to make LEAD more representative of all the beautiful and diverse types of Latinas in the world.
Daniela Betancourt ‘22, Associate Director of Corporate Relations
Social Studies or Government. I joined LEAD board to help empower Latina women. Within the Latinx community at Harvard, I've found role models and family. These relationships have diminished the limitations I thought I had in an institution not built for me. Through LEAD, I want to help extend these unlimited possibilities to other Latinas beyond Harvard, with the hope that LEAD provides them the network and empowerment to succeed.
Yasenimary Velázquez Carrasquillo ‘21, Director of Social Media
Romance Languages and Literature with a possible Secondary in Computer Science. I decided to join LEAD because I wanted to help bring Latinas together. LEAD inspires: it fosters inclusivity, diversity, and community. It is an incredibly inspirational conference and I wanted to help out as much as possible.
Tania Dominguez-Rangel ‘21, Associate Director of Social Media
Romance Languages and Literatures with a Secondary in Studio Art. I joined LEAD because I wanted to be a part of creating a conference that gives latinas on my campus and across the nation a voice to express their experiences.
Jessica Herrera ‘21, Director of Workshops & Speakers
Social Studies. I decided to join the LEAD Board because nothing makes me happier than seeing fellow Latinas succeed. We live in such a patriarchal society and the sad reality is that we're double taxed by our patriarchal culture. It's time we redefine what it means to be Latina. We are strong. We are intelligent. We are capable. We are powerful. I hope to convey this message to all other Latinas through my work at the LEAD conference this year!
Brenda Ceja ‘22, Associate Director of Workshops & Speakers
Undeclared. I joined LEAD board because I want to be directly involved with the conference. I hope that the conference will help other young Latinas like myself gain confidence in our abilities and talents.
Jeannie Regidor ‘20, Director of Outreach
History & Literature with a secondary in Government. I joined the LEAD board because I wanted to help organize a conference that recognizes and encourages the success of Latinas. I have been inspired by the many women in my life including my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and sisters.
Amanda Flores ‘20, Associate Director of Outreach
Government. As a LEAD Board member last year, I had the opportunity to meet so many incredible Latinas I would not know otherwise and was completely inspired by what I learned and saw at the conference. I joined the Board again this year to continue the wonderful experience.
Sammantha Garcia ‘22, Associate Director of Outreach
Sociology. Being Latina, first-generation, and low-income can pose different challenges at Harvard as a first-year student. However, throughout my first month, I have found a community within the Latinx community. My decision to join LEAD was so I could work in a space alongside strong, Latina women that are ready to empower others around them and in the surrounding communities. My hopes for the conference are to be able to learn from my fellow directors as well as to create an event that is able to inspire other Latinas.
For more information about Latinas Unidas, visit our page at http://www.harvardlatinasunidas.org/