Female Change Makers Gather
at SMU for Leadership Fostering

PHOTO GALLERY     |   The four-day Women Ambassadors Forum geared toward empowering women in leadership kicked off Tuesday and includes 32 ambassadors from 19 countries.

As a professional football player and member of team USA at the International Federation of American Football Women’s World Championship, Jen Welter won gold medals.

Her paycheck for the season — $12 or $1 per a game. 

“Your worth is not defined by what anybody would pay you,” said Welter, who in 2015 became the first female coach in the NFL. “My value was priceless. The budget was $12, but I had to be willing to bet on myself.”


Dieste Inc Chief Marketing Officer Carla Eboli listens to Jen Welter who became the first female coach in the NFL, speaking at the 2017 Women Ambassadors Forum at SMU. [Photo by Chase Mardis]

Welter advised women gathered for the 2017 Women Ambassadors Forum this week at Southern Methodist University to be good enough to get a foot in the door.

“The responsibility is once you’re in that room, you pull other people in with you,” she said.

“Your worth is not defined by what anybody would pay you.”

The four-day conference geared toward empowering women in leadership kicked off Tuesday and includes 32 ambassadors from 19 countries. The women were chosen from almost 600 online applicants. They are people who have demonstrated leadership skills and a willingness to learn, said Ingrid Harb, founder and president of Women Ambassadors Forum.

“Most of all, we look for women [who] are ready to make a change,” Harb said. “Women that take initiative, women that aren’t scared of learning or failing [or scared] of taking a risk.”

Founder and President of Women Ambassadors Forum Ingrid Harb [Photo by Chase Mardis]


Harb first formed the global organization in 2015 when studying at Trinity University in San Antonio.

She recognized a need for a platform to foster female leadership, networking, and mentorship. Since then, it has expanded from her circle of friends to other universities in the state and internationally.

In its third year, the student-driven forum is making a stop in Dallas. This year’s theme, the “Ripple Effect,” is a metaphor for how these ambassadors may become strong leaders to create positive change and be impactful in their communities and professional fields.

“These women fight to come here, so it’s really powerful to see how regardless of the obstacles they’re willing to overcome them,” Harb said.

The forum’s co-chair Mirka Serrato, a marketing and management student at SMU, has been with the organization since its conception, crafting its branding and messaging.

The goal is to give ambassadors the opportunity to connect and engage with one another and to exchange ideas without discrimination or prejudice, Serrato said.

“All of these girls have incredible potential,” she said.

Ambassador Paula Manuel from Far Eastern University in Manila, Philippines, said the conference is giving her a chance to be a “global change maker” and to learn from people she would not have met otherwise.

“These women fight to come here, so it’s really powerful to see how  regardless of the obstacles — they’re willing to overcome them.” 

Ingrid Harb

Harb, with the help of her team, brought the event to Dallas because it had a lot of support from local companies and professionals — especially those at SMU, she said.

The region is a hub of businesses, institutions, and associations, said the forum’s other co-chair Gloria Gutierrez, a recent SMU graduate. The school assisted the forum in making connections with different organizations and companies in the area and networking leaders across all disciplines and fields.


An audience member asks a question to a speaker at the 2017 Women Ambassadors Forum. [Photo by Chase Mardis]

The multi-day conference has a full lineup of workshops and panels including talks on how to navigate the job market as technology disrupts across industries to tips on turning an entrepreneurial dream into a reality. 


On Wednesday, Welter joined Dallas female executives Maria Cramer, Hitachi Consulting vice president; Carla Eboli, chief marketing officer of Dieste Inc.; and Carrie Tharp, chief marketing officer of the Neiman Marcus Group, in a panel on women in leadership. 


Hitachi Consulting vice president Maria Cramer [Photo: Chase Mardis]

They discussed their experiences, obstacles, failures, and successes along the way to management roles. Each spoke on the importance of uplifting others, embracing opportunities for growth, holding oneself accountable, and being a role model.

Having positive influences can be a huge benefit in your professional and personal development, Cramer said.

“It’s really important to find those mentors in your life — to find the people that can round your edges, that will challenge you, that will tell you when you’ve done something wrong, who’ll help you get better,” she said. 

Eboli advised the women to surround themselves with people who are smarter than they are. 

Moreover, recruiting, and collaborating with people with skills and perspectives different from oneself can help solve problems more efficiently, she said.

Elvana Shala, ambassador of Goodwill for Kosovo at International Human Rights Commission, said she attended the conference (and others like it in the past) to represent her country, a state located on the Balkan Peninsula south of Serbia.

” … find the people that can round your edges, that will challenge you, that will tell you when you’ve done something wrong, who’ll help you get better.” 


Shala plans to take the information she’s learned and the connections she’s made back to Kosovo, where she will speak to others about women’s rights and leadership. Her goal is to promote gender equality and advocate for those who do not have the means to do so themselves.

Although there’s no official plans, Harb said she foresees the possibility of another Women Ambassadors Forum in Dallas. It’s important for the organization to expand its reach and for women to empower each other in the community, she said. 

“It’s a beautiful time to be a woman,” Eboli said.

Photo Gallery

[Photo by Chase Mardis]


SMU student Mika Serrato and graduate Gloria Gutierrez, who helped organize the forum in Dallas. [Photo by Chase Mardis]

[Photo by Chase Mardis]

Panelists at the women’s forum make a presentation to the audience. [Photo by Chase Mardis’

Carla Eboli and Jen Welter  [Photo by Chase Mardis]

Maria Cramer with Carrie Tharp [Photo by Chase Mardis]

Jen Welter

Jen Welter [Photo: Chase Mardis]

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