Harvard LEAD conference celebrates and educates Latina voices

Frankie Colao-Piñero


A&E Editor


The first annual Harvard Undergraduate Latina Empowerment and Development Conference this Covid-19 took place on Feb 9 – Feb 10. The LEAD conference has been empowering Latinas since 2007, when Biance Caban ‘09 sought out a team of committed leaders within Harvard’s Latina community. These powerful Latina women then dedicated themselves to organizing a conference that facilitates “the entrance of young Latinas into the professional world and beyond.” 

For latinas by latinas, LEAD was established for the specific purpose of celebrating “Latina innovation, diversity, and strength, and affirm their position to simply lead.” 

The conference featured Latina women who have launched their own companies, broken into industries that previously did not have space for them, and generally paved the way for Latinas. However, none struck a chord more than American civil rights activist Sylvia Mendez, who was one of the first Hispanics to attend an all-white school in California. 

At age 8, she played an integral role in Mendez v. Westminster, effectively ending de jure segregation in the state of California. Mendez’s speech had many in the room in tears as she remarked how she had to fight for a primary education, and now Latinas have been able to make their way into the Ivy League.

The conference was beneficial for many, not just Latina women. There were a few Latino men in attendance. 

Geal Figueroa-Enriquez was raised in a Latina led household. He noted how he grew up on Latina values and seeing first-hand the reality of Latina struggles, “I want to learn more about it [Latina struggles] so I can be able to not just be an ally, but also support those who are in my life.”

The LEAD conference provided young Latinas with representation of hard-working women, especially in a time where Latino stereotypes do not seem to be going anywhere. This representation was also important as Latinas are the lowest on the pay-gap, and such a big part of this conference was teaching young Latinas how to advocate for themselves to ensure that they are paid what they deserve.  

While there is a long way to go, Latinas have been making great strides in fighting for not just equality, but equity.

Editor’s Note: Colao-Piñero attended the LEAD conference with PSU’s Latine Student Union. LSU meets at the IDEA Center Wednesdays from 4:30 – 5:30 PM. They can be found on Instagram @psulatinestudentunion.