Background: HERlead Ambassador Forum

In 2012, I spoke at the UL ‘Responsible Sourcing Summit,’ as inspiration. One attendee who spoke happened to work for ANN Inc. and she mentioned a new initiative that ANN Inc. was spearheading with an organization called Vital Voices. It was for women leaders in high school. She said I would be a good fit and should consider applying. Following this woman’s advice, I did and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

At the 2012 HERlead Leadership Program

In June 2012, I attended the inaugural HERlead Leadership Summit in Washington D.C. with 49 other incredible women. I learned a lot and even met one of my best friends, Sasha, who ended up being my Sophomore Year college roommate. In 2014, I was lucky enough to be chosen as a Global Delegate with HERlead to attend the Trust Women’s Conference in London. Click HERE for my experience at the 2012 HERlead Leadership Summit and HERE for my experience at the 2014 HERlead Global Delegation to London.

Day 1

Arrival at the 2017 HERlead Ambassador Forum
I took a redeye from San Francisco to Washington D.C. on Monday evening. I was pretty exhausted because I got my wisdom teeth taken out on the previous Friday! I definitely underestimated my ability to be ready to travel/attend a conference. However, the entire HERlead staff was incredibly supportive and understanding to me the entire week. Big shout-out to Kristen!!

Kristen greeted the few of us from the West Coast in the beautiful lobby of The Dupont Circle Hotel. I was so excited, because I was able to see a friend from the 2012 Leadership Summit, Madi Vorva! We were all able to take a nap before beginning our day later that afternoon.

HERlead 2017 Ambassador Forum

My arrival at the 2017 HERlead Ambassador Forum

At 4:00 PM the festivities began, with the 20 girls from previous summits coming together and learning more about the few days ahead. Jeannette from ANN Inc. greeted us with some opening remarks, and ANN Inc.’s continued investment in all of us and our projects. I am incredibly grateful to ANN Inc. and Vital Voices for continuing to support past fellows in a truly meaningful way! Thank you! <3

That night, we attended a pre-reception to the Vital Voices 2017 Global Leadership Awards at the House of Sweden (the Swedish Embassy). Four of the honorees attended the event. It was quite a unique and beautiful event, where composers, lyricists, and performers came together to pay musical tribute to the honorees. I cannot describe how beautiful, striking, and inspiring the performances were. Thank you to Vital Voices for bringing us to this event.

Day 2

Social Media Training, Gary Muto, Collaboration Stations, GLA

HERlead 2017

Karla Ruiz Confino, founder of digital ad agency MILKnCOOKIES at the HERlead Ambassador Forum

On Day 2, the real training began. We heard from the incredible Karla Ruiz Confino of digital brand agency, MILKnCOOKIES. She shared with us an overarching digital strategy that we could all adopt for our projects. I learned about some new really cool websites to elevate our online presence. She also talked a lot about the importance of collaboration and the elevation of others. On that note, watch out for some profiles in the coming weeks on the incredible HERlead Ambassadors!

Next, Gary Muto, Presidetn & CEO of ANN Inc. spoke to us about ANN Inc.’s commitment to us and the HERlead Ambassador Forum. He talked a lot about how to be a leader. One piece of advice that stuck with me was that to be a good leader, you need to motivate others to get the best out of them. At the end of the day, we do not know everything and need PEOPLE to succeed. He also talked about the importance of perseverance and believing in yourself. Thank you Gary Muto for being so incredible!

Allyson Ahlstrom with Hamilton star, Jasmine Cephas Jones

We next up heard from the incredible Jasmine Cephas Jones, former star of Hamilton. She is the new face of ANN Inc.’s brand, Lou & Grey. She talked about the importance of putting your all into everything. She was committed to being an actress and did everything in her power to make that happen.

Next, we had participated in collaboration stations, where we presented our challenges to members of ANN Inc. management. I learned about creating a positive culture throughout my project.

HERlead 2017

With 2012 HERlead Fellows and now Ambassadors, Allyson, Sydney, Madi, and Jacqueline

HERlead 2017

At the Global Leadership Awards with other HERlead Ambassadors–Claire, Sydney, Allyson, and Laura.


HERlead 2017 with Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton speaking at the Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards 2017

That evening, we attended the Vital Voices 2017 Global Leadership Awards. This was definitely one of the highlights of the event. We got to hear and see more about the five honorees, along with a speech from the founder of Vital Voices, Hillary Clinton. At one point we got to go backstage and meet Mrs. Clinton herself!! One powerful quote from the evening was when Hillary said, “Never lose your optimism, your persistence and your resistance.”

HERlead 2017

At the after-party of the Vital Voices 2017 Global Leadership Awards with the following Ambassadors: Allyson, Amanda, Claire, Laura, Kassandra, and Lindsay

Day 3

Claire Shipman, Communications training, Ann Taylor Panel event

HERlead 2017

Allyson Ahlstrom with Claire Shipman, author of “The Confidence Code”

Next, on Day 3, my favorite part was when the author of the book, “The Confidence Code.” She highlighted interesting differences between how men and women perceive and deal with risk. Specifically, she said that women ruminate much more than men. Rumination is not healthy to confidence, and can lead to negative thought processes. We were fortunate enough to receive a free copy of the book.

In the afternoon, we visited an Ann Taylor store, where we were given a gift card for $200 and a 30% off coupon!! THANK YOU SO MUCH TO ANN INC!!! A panel of four entrepreneurs spoke to us about their businesses.

Day 4 – Presentations

On the last day, we said our goodbyes. However, I cannot end this blog post without a chatting about an incredible girl named Teresa. She reached out to me via email a while ago and offered any assistance she could with Threads for Teens. I was incredibly touched that she would be so nice!! I have been following all of her incredible accomplishments for the past while and could not be more proud of everything she has accomplished!! Congratulations Teresa!! You are amazing and I cannot wait to see where you go in life. <3

HERlead 2017

Allyson Ahlstrom and Teresa Leatherow at the HERlead Ambassador Forum

I had such an incredible time at the HERlead Ambassador Forum, and am grateful to be a part of this amazing network.

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