Harvard Business Conference for Women Inspires

Isa Lee ‘23
EE Staff Writer

The fourth annual Business Oriented Leadership Development Conference (B.O.L.D.), an event for high school women interested in business, was held this year in a virtual format on January 30th and 31st.  The conference brings together speakers and panels made up of Harvard undergraduates and women leaders in the business world across a variety of industries ranging from finance and tech to fashion and entertainment.  

The conference exemplifies women’s empowerment and inspires young women on how they can lead. The panels were also important for the college application process, as they gave great advice and ideas on college admissions and insights into the business world. The women featured in the conference showed how they create an impact on our society and shared their incredible success stories and advancements. Sunday’s event consisted of seven inspiring panels. Each student was only able to attend a certain number because they overlapped. Listed below are 4 of the panels, 2 keynotes and a master class. 

Panel #1, Applying to College Panel: The 4 panelists, consisting of Harvard undergraduates,  each explained who they were and what they were studying. Most spoke about how they applied and chose early-decision to Harvard. They all advised students  to be prepared to have a list of colleges for regular decision applications as well, just in case. Lastly, college visits helped these undergraduates to decide where they wanted to go and determined a lot of their decisions. 

Panel #2, Technology: The panelists  were four technology co-founders of companies focused on developing, powering technology, and marketing. Mada Seghete grew up in Romania and followed  a computer engineering path. Then, she started product managing and joined a startup. Seghete didn’t initially see  an issue with the lack of women working in tech because she didn’t feel any different, even though her co-founders were all men. But, she found a group of female founder friends and saw that what they went through as women was incredible. She realized that it was harder to raise money as a woman and they did not have check-writing power like men. The second panelist,Vanessa Liu, was a social commerce CEO in entrepreneurship. Having a personal board of advisors was also important to Vanessa. They helped her succeed and created opportunities for her. Lastly, she explained that working with women and people of color changed her views and motivated her to make a social impact in a technology company. When she first started working in  business, she was oblivious to how the world worked. Women and diverse entrepreneurs were coming to her because she is a Chinese-American, and a plethora of these women could relate to her. Another panelist faced similar challenges in her journey through the industry: Neeti Mehta Shukla. She is from India and started product marketing and consumer behavior. She founded “Automatic Anywhere”. The fact that she was a woman in technology did not bother her or hold her back because she knew she had a place. In the end, technology has the responsibility to change jobs and create new improvements. Artificial intelligence may be causing mass job loss, but if the end goal stays  in perspective, then society as a whole is changing for the better. An important question to keep in mind is “Will jobs become obsolete due to these special advancements”? These educated women show that creating jobs for the future, and local users, create more products and services that were once impossible. “I almost envy all of you young kids because the sky’s the limit” Shukla said. 

Keynote: Chief Financial Officer. Jennifer A. Piepszak is the CFO of JP Morgan who says, “Numbers tell stories”. She has the responsibility, obligation, and privilege to know everything about her company and the strategies they use. She has been working at JP Morgan for 27 years and she said that the best part is the people. “They are down to earth and always challenging me. My greatest goal is to make progress in regards to  diversity.” She said that some of her best decisions have come from  working with a diverse group of people and an inclusive culture. Lastly, she claims that she benefits by working with people and men who are helpful, good mentors, and grew her confidence. She doesn’t believe the world is men dominated– it once was, but it has changed. 

Makeup Masterclass w/ PopBeauty: Karla Bonilla is a makeup artist for PopBeauty and exclusively features innovative and re-energized products. POPBeauty revitalizes your face and your beauty routine with cruelty-free, vegan, recyclable, and clean formulas to express your confidence and personality. Throughout this makeup tutorial, Bonilla showed different techniques and tricks on how to perfect a makeup look. She showed how women should express and show off their beauty, this tutorial emphasizes all of the beautiful features of women.  

Panel #3, Sports and Workout: The first panelist, Elena Baker, works at the NFL. She is the head of communications and wants to be the first female commissioner. She was one of the only women presidents for the Raiders. She worked at a marketing agency for beauty and tried to pursue this. She then realized that she was going to work for her career at the NFL. Angelina Lawton is the CEO and founder of Sports digital and has worked with over 400 teams. She wants to be the team president of her company. Rachel Zietz is the CEO and founder of gladiator lacrosse, she became a millionaire at 16 from creating this. She made this out of her passion for lacrosse. As she got better and older, it got more expensive to get more products. Later on, her business was launched and her company grew exponentially.  Eliza Shirazi is the founder of KickIt, she developed a certification to help women be leaders and business instructors. She loves working with women in a man dominated sport and inspired other women to create fitness groups and organizations.     

Panel #4, Food: Three women working in the food industry all focused a lot on company culture and kept going as much as they could through COVID. This changed the way they approached their field with these new changes and differences. Because cooking and food are women dominated jobs, they took their aspirations to new levels. Ariane Duarte owns a restaurant and spoke about the difficulty of managing her restaurant during COVID-19. She mainly spoke about how her restaurant needed to pivot towards a more take-out friendly format. According to “Fortune”, 50 percent of businesses were forced to close, because of the pandemic. However, the effect on Duarte was very different from the effect on Corin Hirsch, who is a food critic. She works at Newspay and writes about food and drinks. With COVID hitting hard, there was nowhere for her to review because of restaurants closing. This is similar to Makenzie Marzluft. She creates food products and brands, a heart-centered business. She had trouble selling her food and profits went down extremely. 

Keynote: Shilpa Yarlagadda started the business ‘Shiffon’. It is a jewelry company that grew immensely, and sells to famous investors and people around the world. Celebrities like Emma Watson and Serena Williams wear this jewelry as well. Yarlagadda became close with Watson’s stylist and she helped create and grow Yarlagaddas line. As her company grew, fifty percent of the profit she made went to women investor companies. She wanted to increase and fund female entrepreneurs. Growing up, Yarlagadda would never buy rings or jewelry since she did not know her size. She created this line that specializes in not having to know your size. Therefore, her most famous piece of jewelry is an adjustable, one size fits all ring. Besides learning how to invest, she had to accept her failures and not let the fact that she was a woman at a young age take over. She mentioned how she was always worried that no one would take her seriously.  “Women deserve equal opportunity to fail and succeed,” said Yarlagadda.

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