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Taking Charge

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Ingrid Harb '16 is interviewed by Univision 41 at the Women Ambassadors Forum. 

Ingrid Harb spreads a message of female empowerment as she convenes the inaugural Women Ambassadors Forum

by Carlos Anchondo ’14

As a young girl Ingrid Harb ’16 dreamt of becoming a housewife. She fantasized about finding the perfect husband and having the perfect wedding. The perfect cake. The perfect dress.

For most females in Monclova, Coahuila, Mexico, straying too far from this linear path is not always an option. Women are expected to prepare for the eventuality that they will become wives and mothers and that it is their responsibility to educate the family and manage the home.

This progression was once Harb’s natural course—until she attended St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin and her perspective began to change. Harb came to realize that she could still be a wife and mother in addition to a successful career woman. She saw that these roles each demand considerable leadership and present their own unique challenges.

Harb applied to Trinity, where she now majors in business administration with concentrations in marketing and international business. She became involved as a member of the cross country and track teams, with Lambda Pi Eta, the National Communication Association's honor society, and the Spurs social sorority. She is also a member of the San Antonio chapter of the Association of Mexican Businessmen (AEM), where she is the director of five programs.

In the fall of 2014, Harb applied to become a delegate with US-MEX FoCUS, an organization comprised of university students from the U.S. and Mexico that aspires to create a binational network of leaders. After attending an initial conference at Monterrey Tec, Harb returned to the U.S. with a mission: to create a forum of female university student leaders who could empower one another to achieve success.

Women Ambassadors Forum (WAF) was born.

For five days in mid-July, Harb brought together over 30 young women from universities in the U.S. and Mexico at Trinity University. Delegates submitted applications to be members of the inaugural WAF.

The women learned about leadership in workshops by Josh Daneshforooz, chairman and CEO of the Onima Group, and heard from a variety of notable speakers including Ivonne Domenge, Susana López Charretón, and Angélica Fuentes Téllez. In addition to the workshops, WAF also toured the Univision 41 studios, local Molina Healthcare facilities, and more.

“I had this goal to empower other women,” Harb says. “Coming from my culture, I wanted to do this because it was difficult to empower myself, and the WAF network will provide the tools for these women to be successful.”

WAF’s board of co-founders was comprised of Harb and four other US-MEX FoCUS delegates, students from the University of Texas at Austin, Monterrey Tec, and Babson College. As president and co-founder, Harb recruited 11 individuals to serve as conference coordinators and staff.

Daneshforooz’s workshops challenged WAF delegates to create organizations of their own and to return next year and update their fellow participants on their progress. Harb’s hope is that WAF has inspired these women to continue to excel as leaders and mentors.

One of Harb’s personal heroines is Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook and author of the bestselling book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Harb looks to Sandberg as a role model, in addition to Oprah Winfrey.

“Women are strong and must have courage,” Harb says. “We can use our femininity to rule the world. That’s why we need organizations like WAF, because I want women to be conscious of their power.”

In addition to WAF, Harb has created a group on the Trinity campus called She Leaders, which also focuses on the empowerment of college women. She wants to bring together women of different majors and all interests to have the greatest possible impact on Trinity.

Harb says that she comes from a long line of independent women, including her mother and her grandmothers, whom she regards as mentors. And, although she still feels the pressure of patriarchy from time to time, Harb now envisions both the perfect wedding and perfect career in her future.

Carlos Anchondo is a writer and editor for marketing communications and a 2014 Trinity graduate. He can be found on Twitter at @cjanchondo or at canchond [at] trinity.edu.