Lessons from Harvard Business School’s Dynamic Women in Business Conference

This Saturday, 22nd of February, the Women’s Student Association of Harvard’s Business School held the 29th Annual Dynamic Women in Business Conference. With the motto Driving Change Together, the conference put together over 100 incredibly accomplished women to discuss the challenges, innovations, and advantages of being a woman in business. Panel topics included Changing Dynamics of Advocating for Women in the Workplace, The Only Women at the Table, and Building your Leadership Style. 

It was astonishingly empowering to just be in the presence of so many females who are paving the way, driving change, and just generally chewing up and spitting back the patriarchy in very creative ways every day. Attendees got to hear about the future of female-led companies directly from key industry players, and I can assure you I have never been in a room with so many CEOs before (e.g. BeautyLynk’s Rica Elysee, Fhitting Room’s Kari Saitowitz, Ramy Brook’s Ramy Brooks Sharp, and Aureus Asset Management’s Karen Fireston- just to name a few). 

One highlight of the day was, undoubtedly, the closing Keynote Speakers: Deborah Singer, CMO at Girls Who Code, Emmanuelle Skala, SVP of Customer Success at Toast, and Tracey Zhen, President of Zipcar. Deborah shared all about Girls Who Code accomplishments, campaigns [you should really watch this one], and how the organization is on track to reach gender parity in entry-level jobs in coding related fields by 2027! Meanwhile, Tracey, using many road-related puns, shared all about her journey as a young woman of color and the industry-disruptive history of Zipcar. 

It was, however, Emmanuelle’s learnings focused speech that inspired me to share with you the lessons that she gathered through her journey as women in business:

Lesson 1: Talent doesn’t matter “As much as talent counts, effort counts twice.” Angela Duckworth, author of Grit

Lesson 2: Don’t be nice  Don’t conform to gender expectations. Choose competence over being liked. Your work and effort should speak for you. You should never feel like you need to be nice to succeed. 

Lesson 3: Set fears We often remember to set goals, but we don’t frequently set fears. Write them down, break them down, and address them. Growth opportunities are often scary, you should know what the opportunity cost of letting fear win is and how you can anticipate the possibility of failure. 

Lesson 4: Never Eat Alone You don’t need to be nice. You should, however, make room for developing meaningful relationships with your peers and colleagues. It is not only important for your own mental health, but also for your productivity and ability as a leader. Not to mention that networking and relationships are key to opening jobs and opportunities. 

Lesson 5: You are a fraud (and that’s okay) Imposter syndrome is real. If you haven’t experienced it, chances are you will at some point. Don’t ever let it deter you from pursuing your goals. Know that you are not the only one and focus on getting things done. Do what you need to feel like you can earn your place, even if it is already yours. 

Whether these lessons apply to the moment you are living right now or not, I think these are powerful fragments of knowledge that all women should hear at least once. Congrats to Emmanuelle for an inspiring and engaging speech and all the conference leadership for a successful event.