Student-led Conferences at HKS:  Women in Power Conference

Student-led Conferences at HKS:  Women in Power Conference

This coming weekend, April 23-24, 2022, is the 5th

annual student-led Women in Power Conference. As highlighted in a previous post, each spring Harvard Kennedy School students

organize a series of student-led conferences focusing on issues that are

timely, relatable, and of substance.

The Women in Power Conference

co-chairs—Jamie Mittelman, Itika Gupta, Tasneem Ahmed, Leonie Bolte, and Majd

Steitieh—reflect on what they hope attendees take away from this year’s

conference and what goes into planning a student conference.

Q: The theme for this year’s event is The Power Within. How and why did you choose that theme?

This past year has been

another year of severe challenges spanning every realm from the individual to

global level. As societies adapt and evolve, achieving gender equity feels more

complex and perhaps even farther from reach now than ever before. For our fifth

annual Women in Power Conference, we looked for power in new and different

places. We may have struggled to find power entirely, making us wonder, where

does power come from within each individual, be it a role, an experience, a

phase of life, or a thought? We propose that we find “Power Within” ourselves

in many ways. It may lie within—and is not limited to—the Harvard Community,

professional life, relationships, the body, and spirituality.

Q: What goes into planning a student-led conference?

Co-Chair Leonie Bolte: The

conference team is made up of 19 students from nine different countries, and

the team has worked tirelessly for months to put together this week’s event. We

started by dividing high-level strategic tasks among our leadership team

members, such as fundraising or speaker sourcing. Towards the end, we all

pitched in for many small jobs, such as putting water bottles on the speakers’

table or designing and printing name tags. As a student conference, you are in

the driver’s seat for all of these tasks to make the conference a success—no

matter how small or big.

Q: Why did you decide to get involved in planning the


Conference Co-Chair Itika

Gupta: In my experience working in male dominated spaces, I lacked women

mentors and role models as I moved forward in my career. I decided I wanted to

see more women in leadership positions and do everything in my capacity to

enable other women to get there. This conference provides an amazing platform

to bring women leaders to the forefront, connecting them with those who do not

necessarily have such avenues.

Q: What are you most looking

forward to at the conference?

We look forward to hosting keynote

conversations with fashion icon, Diane von Fürstenberg; Jamaican Ambassador,

Her Excellency Audrey Marks; World Champion para-badminton player, Manasi

Joshi; and others. We will stomp along in dance workshops, sing along to

acapella, and develop self-advocacy and negotiation strategies in hands-on

trainings. We will hear personal stories of Harvard students, faculty, and

staff on where they have found ‘Power Within’ their own lives, and explore how

we can stand united in the fight for gender equity.

Conference Co-Chair Tas Ahmed: I

believe deeply in the power of sharing experiences to inspire and support one

another, so I am looking forward to the storytelling sessions where we will

hear the powerful stories of our own community members. I hope for the

conversations in our conference to spark continued discussion that pushes us

towards achieving gender equity.

Conference Co-Chair Jamie

Mittelman: I’m particularly proud that while the event will be in person for

all Harvard students, they have maintained virtual components to provide access

for any and all outside of Harvard’s walls. These conversations need to be

available to as many as possible. We’re fortunate that we are here. Now let’s

bring more people into the conversations.

Q: What are the top three things you hope conference

attendees take away?

Conference Co-Chair Majd

Steitieh: I hope attendees of this

year’s conference will walk away realizing that power can come from within any

space, profession, relationship, or field. I hope they can also see that power

within means a bunch of different things to different people and that they

should ask themselves what it means to them and how they will find their own

internal power when faced with obstacles. Finally, I hope they’ll know that

they have everything they need to overcome obstacles and by hearing stories

from our storytellers they can see that they can rise above any struggles life

throws at them.

Join the conference virtually by

purchasing your ticket here.