“Leadership is not a line or trajectory, it’s a spiral staircase,” Lindsay N. Hyde ’04 told audience members at the Breakthrough Leadership conference hosted by the Women’s Leadership Network (WLN) on Saturday.
The founder and executive director of the non-profit Strong Women, Strong Girls, Inc. (SWSG), Hyde delivered the keynote address at the event, which was aimed at helping women break through a “glass ceiling” limiting their leadership opportunities.
Hyde spoke about her winding staircase to business success—she first formed SWSG, an organization that aims to build self-esteem in young girls, as a high-schooler in Miami and brought the program with her to Harvard.
During her senior year, Hyde decided to turn the program into a non-profit organization.
Hyde said that at first she felt like a “mad scientist” as she worked alone in an office without heating.
Today Hyde has a new office and she said her organization has 250 girls in its program, over 80 volunteers, and a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University.
“Once I took the leadership step of putting myself on the line, other people were also willing to put themselves on the line,” she said.
With Felipe’s burritos in their hands, dozens of students, all women, had assembled in Sever Hall to listen to the event’s presenters.
Following Hyde’s speech, a panel of Harvard students shared their own leadership experiences.
The panel included Tracy L. Britt ’07, president of Women in Business, Jennifer N. Green ’07, vice-president of the Black Students Association, Mayuri N. Shah ’08, co-president of the South Asian Association (SAA), and Kristina M. Moore ’08, president-elect of The Crimson.
When asked for advice, the four stressed the importance of passion in an activity.
“Trust in your abilities,” Green said. “If your passion and conviction are there, everything else can be learned.”
After the students spoke, a panel of professionals offered words of wisdom.
The speakers emphasized that students must build relationships and gain practical experience to become leaders.
“Step out of your comfort shell, make your connections, and it will come back to you full-circle,” said Nancy Carmichael, president of Boston Women’s Network and one of the three panelists.
Following the professional panel, attendees went to “breakout sessions” where they had the opportunity to have more intimate discussions with the leaders.
“I thought this would be a great opportunity to get [Harvard women] involved and seeking skills they can use later on in their profession,” said Gianna M. De Caro ’09, chair of the WLN conferences committee.