May 15th, 2016

“Unless you know where you’re from you don’t have that anchor as a leader, you really can’t move forward” – Lidia Soto-Harmon

Lidia has spent a great deal of her life in the “hyphen” of being a Cuban-American: that is between her Cuban roots and American life as an adult. Her Cuban missionary parents moved from Tennessee to El Salvador to Ecuador back to the U.S. during Lidia’s formative years, deeply instilling in her love of family, service and travel.

In this incredibly open, authentic, heart-warming interview Lidia shares wonderful stories of her family – from her uncle’s MacGyver-like ingenuity forced by scarcity of communist Cuba to her father’s magic touch with people (that Lidia clearly inherited) to the moving recent trip with her children back to Cuba.

Lidia also talks about the importance of sharing your struggles and not just successes as a leader; how she “translates” her international background and earlier career successes to making impact locally with the Girl Scouts; her struggles with balance and making time for self-care; and some fun stories about her family’s fascination with everything Alexander Hamilton (and not just the musical!)

What You’ll Learn

  • About Lidia’s amazing journey as the daughter of Cuban
    missionary parents from TN to El Salvador and Ecuador back to the U.S.
  • Why Lidia considers the question “where are you from?” a complicated one
  • How living in Latin America and witnessing extreme poverty and injustice influenced Lidia’s path as a leader
  • Ways leaders can systemically impact community and have a ripple effect at multiple levels of change
  • Some heartwarming personal stories of young women Lidia has mentored and what she has learned from them (and her children) in return
  • What Lidia most struggles with at this point of her life and career
  • The challenges and gifts of being an “empty nester”
  • Why Lidia’s personal mission in elevators is to make people laugh at least ones
  • Secrets of the Woo (Winning Over Others) she learned from her father
  • What Lidia and her family find fascinating and inspiring about Alexander Hamilton

 Links & ResourcesIMG_3735

About Lidia Soto Harmon

Lidia Soto Harmon became the CEO of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital in 2010 after serving six years as the organization’s Chief Operating Officer. The Girl Scout Council is the area’s preeminent leadership organization for girls, serving 90,000 girl and adult members (girls in grades K-12). Lidia has developed an annual conference, Encuentro de Chicas Latinas de las Girl Scouts, which reaches young Latina girls, inspiring leadership and academic success. She also developed the DC Step Showcase to celebrate the rich history of African-Americans. Today, the annual event is enjoyed by Girl Scouts throughout the region.

Prior to joining the Council, Lidia served as Senior Vice President of Community Development for First Book, a national children’s literacy organization dedicated to getting new books into the hands of children from low-income families. She served as the Deputy Director of the President’s Interagency Council on Women, chaired by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, at the U.S. Department of State, where she represented the United States at various United Nations’ conferences including the annual Commission on the Status of Women.

Lidia was the Senior Director of the Fannie Mae Foundation’s Targeted Outreach Department, designing the first corporate nationwide multilingual strategy to reach new immigrants to promote homeownership in the United States in the late 1990s. She was a 2000 Fellow for the National Hispana Leadership Institute and participated with her NHLI Class in the Executive Seminar at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

Lidia was named one of Nation’s Top 90 Women, Mentoring Leaders by Women of Wealth Magazine 2011, Notimujer of the Week, by CNN en Español for her work to reach young Latinas, and a Woman Who Means Business by the Washington Business Journal in 2012. She received the Regional Mujer Award (Woman of the Year) by the National Hispana Leadership Institute in 2012, and the Woman of Vision Award from the Junior League of Northern Virginia 2012. In 2013, Lidia was named one of DC’s most influential leaders in the Power Issue of Capitol File Magazine and she received the Wayne T. Anderson Award for Distinguished Public Service from George Mason University in 2014.

Lidia is Vice Chair of the Migration Policy Institute, serves on the board of directors for the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington and chairs the Governance Committee for the Meyer Foundation. She was honored to throw out the first pitch at a Washington Nationals Major League baseball game in 2014, in honor of Girl Scout Weekend in the Greater Washington Region.

Lidia grew up in Latin America and the United States. She earned her Master’s in Public Administration from George Mason University and B.A. from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. She is married and has two bilingual adult children.


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  1. Alvin Carlos comment:

    What a wonderful interview. It’s amazing to get to know these leaders at a personal level. I really liked Lidia’s take on serving our local community, and the stories she shared about the memorable (and unexpected) experiences of young women in the Girl Scout program.

  2. margarita comment:

    Thank you for listening, Alvin! I’m grateful every time a guest shares their personal story, like Lidia did, because of the exact impact you mention – it’s so eye-opening and connective!

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