15 Minutes with LeadBoston Alum Carmen Andrade Hardaway

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YW Boston sat down with Carmen Andrade Hardaway (LeadBoston Class of 2020), Head of Apparel Collaborations and Social Purpose Product at Reebok, for our latest “15 Minutes With” interview. Carmen spoke about her LeadBoston experience, her career in the athletic industry, and the importance of Women’s History Month. 

YW Boston: Can you tell us about your experience in LeadBoston and how it has impacted your career path? 

Carmen: Participating in the LeadBoston program proved to be an immensely valuable experience touching various aspects of my life, with a particularly profound impact on my career. My leadership approach has consistently prioritized the principle of putting people first, and I’ve endeavored to navigate the complexities of the corporate landscape to uphold this commitment. LeadBoston played a pivotal role in broadening my perspective by unveiling blind spots I hadn’t previously recognized. 

This transformative experience has translated into tangible growth as a leader. I’ve emerged more empathetic, considerate, and inclusive in my leadership style. The insights gained from LeadBoston have not only refined my understanding of diverse perspectives but have also equipped me with the tools to address the challenges of fostering a truly inclusive and supportive work environment. The program has been a catalyst for personal and professional development, significantly influencing the way I lead, make decisions, and engage with my team. 

YW Boston: What are a few of your most meaningful professional milestones since you participated in LeadBoston? 

Carmen: During my time at LeadBoston, I had the privilege of serving as the chair of our BIPOC Employee Resource Group at Reebok. This experience was uniquely complemented by my participation in the LeadBoston program, allowing me to seamlessly integrate the insights gained into real-time practices. The program served as a practical guide, enhancing my abilities to lead and advocate for diversity and inclusion.  

Since completing the program, I’ve transitioned into a new and impactful role as the Head of Social Purpose Product. In this capacity, my focus is dedicated to amplifying the narratives of Black and Brown communities and dismantling barriers that impede progress. A significant aspect of my role involves spearheading the commitment our organization has made to donate $10 million to the Black and Brown communities, aligning with our United Against Racism commitment. This role not only reflects my personal dedication to social purpose but also underscores our collective responsibility to effect positive change. Through product storytelling and targeted initiatives, I am privileged to contribute to a more inclusive and equitable future. 

YW Boston: March is Women’s History Month. What does Women’s History Month mean to you? 

Carmen: As a woman, particularly a Black woman, navigating a predominantly white, male-dominated industry, Women’s History Month holds special significance for me. It becomes a moment for thoughtful reflection on the trailblazing women who have paved the way within the athletic industry. It’s not just a celebration of historical achievements, but a powerful acknowledgment of the ongoing contributions of women in the field today. It’s a dedicated time to shine a spotlight on their achievements, innovations, and resilience. Equally important is the commitment to uplifting the emerging women stars who are following in our footsteps. Women’s History Month becomes a platform for fostering mentorship, camaraderie, and support among women in the industry, ensuring a continuous cycle of inspiration and empowerment.  

YW Boston: What suggestions do you have for LeadBoston alums, and others, about how they can advocate for greater equity and inclusion in Boston and beyond? 

Carmen: When considering advocating for a more equitable city, the task might initially seem overwhelming, prompting a search for comprehensive solutions to address broad issues. However, I would advocate for a more pragmatic approach, encouraging individuals to initiate change on a smaller scale within the spaces where they hold influence. This might involve fostering equity in the workplace or parents advocating for inclusive programs in schools. I have found that engaging in targeted, pointed conversations and proposing actionable steps can yield impactful results. By focusing on specific, achievable goals within your sphere of influence, you initiate a ripple effect that extends to other areas. This approach not only makes the pursuit of equity more manageable but also creates tangible, sustainable change. It’s a reminder that, even on a smaller scale, every action contributes to the larger goal of building a more equitable and just city for everyone. 

YW Boston: How have you stayed connected with other LeadBoston alums? 

Carmen: Being part of the LeadBoston Class of 2020 was a unique experience as the world unexpectedly shut down mid-program due to COVID-19. We were fortunate enough to have a few in-person connections and the memorable time spent together during our overnight Advance before circumstances pushed us into a virtual setting. Even in the virtual realm, we made time for connection and collaboration. We’ve maintained communication. We update each other on job opportunities, celebrating significant life milestones, and occasionally organizing meetups. The shared experiences and support within our LeadBoston community remain a testament to the lasting impact of our time together. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

About LeadBoston 

Our signature leadership program, LeadBoston, supports all individual participants as they create and implement a leadership commitment. This leadership commitment is an action plan that confronts some of the systemic inequities they’ve learned about and that are showing up in their organization. This plan, and the collective LeadBoston experience, empowers leaders to create meaningful change in their workplaces, in their communities, and in the city of Boston itself. Staff work alongside alums for a year following the program to ensure participants have what they need to see their plan through. Click here to learn more.