The conference brings you more than 100 speakers and presenters. In addition to our amazing featured presenters, speakers include MBA alumni, experts, and representatives of Forté partner companies and schools.
Elissa Sangster serves as CEO of Forté and brings to the role extensive knowledge of issues affecting women's abilities to seek, prepare for and attain business leadership positions, drawn from her prior experience as Assistant Dean and Director of the MBA Program at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. There she oversaw all activities related to the full-time McCombs MBA program including marketing, admissions, student services, and alumni relations. Before McCombs, Elissa was Assistant Director of the MBA Program at Texas A&M University’s Mays School of Business.
Elissa currently serves as Treasurer and Board Member for the Thirty Percent Coalition. She also sits on the Women’s Initiative Council of the CFP Board (Certified Financial Planning Board). She is past Chair of the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) Annual Industry Conference and formerly served as chair of MBA Student Services Professionals (MBA SSP). Elissa sits on the board of Forté as an ex-officio member. She enjoys reading, running, cooking, and Aggie football. She lives in San Antonio with her husband, Jeremy, and their daughter, Anna Leigh. Elissa received her MBA and her B.A. in English from Texas A&M University.
KJ Miller is the Co-founder and CEO of Mented Cosmetics, a multi-million dollar beauty brand celebrating women of all hues. Since its 2017 launch Mented has achieved rapid growth by helping women feel seen and empowered with its inclusive shade range. KJ led the company in securing over $9M in venture funding, and has been featured in several publications including Forbes, Fast Company and The New York Times for her authentic, relatable approach to entrepreneurship.
Prior to founding Mented, KJ spent most of her career working in retail, with a two-year hiatus to attend Harvard Business School graduating in 2014. Her immense retail and product experience spans across functions including merchandising, assortment planning, and supply chain management.
Outside of Mented, KJ has mentored and advised dozens of entrepreneurs, guest lectured at top-ranked business schools across the country including Harvard Business School, Yale School of Management, and Columbia Business School, and created a ground-breaking course, Startup Starter Kit, that levels the entrepreneurial playing field and makes the business world accessible to all.
Tracey Brown is president of Walgreens retail and chief customer officer, overseeing the transformation of Walgreens to a healthcare company, to create more joyful lives through better health.
She is responsible for the Walgreens consumer experience across all consumer touchpoints and leads development of strategies to advance Walgreens across a complex and dynamic competitive landscape. Brown oversees the marketing, product, digital, omnichannel store format, merchandising, data and analytics, and supply chain organizations, as Walgreens further accelerates its digital transformation, in order to create a seamless integration across all channels in-store, mobile and online to provide a unified, consistent brand experience.
Brown has more than 30 years of experience driving business growth, operations, creating omnichannel customer experiences and leveraging digital capabilities to connect consumers and brands. Most recently, she served as chief executive officer for the American Diabetes Association (ADA), where she led the organizational transformation including fundraising, advocacy, science and research while fighting for people living with diabetes.
Prior to the ADA, Brown was senior vice president, operations and chief experience officer for Sam’s Club, a division of Walmart Inc. She also served as CEO and managing director of RAPP Dallas, a data-drive integrated marketing agency, chief operating officer for direct marketing agency Direct Impact and director of worldwide consumer marketing for Advanced Micro Devices. Earlier in her career, she held leadership positions at American Express, Proctor & Gamble and Exxon Mobil.
Brown graduated from University of Delaware with her B.S. in chemical engineering and received her MBA from Columbia Business School in New York.
She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Weight Watchers and Yeti. In 2021, she was named one of Savoy Magazine’s Most Influential Black Corporate Directors, and in 2022, she was listed on Forbes CEO Next List.
Kathryn A. "Kathy" Mikells joined Exxon Mobil Corporation in August 2021 as senior vice president and chief financial officer. As CFO, Ms. Mikells leads the company’s finance functions, including controllers, treasury, tax, and audit as well as the company’s strategic planning, global services, and investor relations functions. Before coming to ExxonMobil, Ms. Mikells spent six years as chief financial officer for London-based Diageo, Plc. At Diageo, the global beverage manufacturer and marketer, she led all traditional corporate finance functions and oversaw the company’s supply chain and procurement, strategy and business development, and shared services and information technology departments before her departure in June 2021.
Ms. Mikells career in finance spans several industries. After receiving a Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois, Ms. Mikells began her career in 1987 at General Electric Company as an investment analyst. After leaving GE, she held finance leadership positions in banking, including the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.
In 1994, after earning a Master of Business Administration in Finance from the University of Chicago, she began a 16-year career at United Airlines Holdings Incorporated, where she served in several corporate planning and financial roles before being appointed senior vice president and chief financial officer in 2008.
After her time with United, Ms. Mikells went on to serve as chief financial officer at ADT Incorporated and Xerox Holdings Corporation before joining Diageo in 2015. Ms. Mikells serves on the board of Hartford Financial Services Group. She is a native of Chicago.
Dr. Merary Simeon is a highly experienced Human Resources Executive and trusted advisor to the C-suite and their leadership teams. Dr. Merary's extensive experience and expertise in the field have equipped her with a deep understanding of the needs and opportunities critical to leaders at all levels.
She has a wealth of leadership experience as an HR Business Partnering, Talent Management, HR Strategy, Change Management, Diversity, Equity Inclusion, Culture Change, Training Development, and Executive Coaching.
Dr. Merary is also a best-selling author, Co-Founder of Zera Consulting and the What Rules!? Podcast. She serves on the Women Foodservice Board's executive committee and several national non-profit boards.
Dr. Merary earned a doctorate in Strategic Leadership from Regent University and a master's degree in human resources from Fordham University. She is a native of Puerto Rico and resides in Texas with her family. She credits her success to Jesus Christ. "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength," Philippians 4:13.
Dr. Tina Opie is a voice for change—and coalition building—fostering a sense of inclusion in society, communities and organizations. As a thought leader and provoker, she combines practice and theory, an approach that ensures engagement, deep thinking and action.
Using her trademarked Shared Sisterhood framework, she helps individuals and organizations “dig in” and unearth our blind spots, providing a catalyst for new thinking—and needed change. In developing Shared Sisterhood, Opie has created more than a powerful approach for connecting and supporting each other, she’s fostering a new way of navigating the world by staying true to ourselves while working together. It’s a modern-day movement of individuality, sisterhood and collective action that crosses historical boundaries of racioethnicity, socio-economics, age, and gender.
An Associate Professor of Management at Babson College, Opie has been recently named a visiting scholar at Harvard Business School following her MLK Visiting Professor/Scholar position at MIT (2019-2021). Her speaking and consulting work has helped organizations including American Express, Hulu, the NFL and dozens more navigate forward toward more inclusive organizations. She is a regular commentator on Harvard Business Review’s Women at Work podcast and Greater Boston’s NPR affiliate television station WGBH. Her work has appeared in top national publications, from the Harvard Business Review and O Magazine to The Washington Post, Boston Globe and she has been published in multiple top academic journals. Look for Tina’s book, Shared Sisterhood, co-authored with Dr. Beth Livingston and published by Harvard Business Press, in Fall 2022. Opie obtained her Ph.D. in Management (with a concentration in organizational behavior) in 2010 from New York University’s Stern School of Business; she earned her MBA from the Darden School of Business in 1999.
Diane Fennig is a passionate architect at the intersection of opportunities and talent. She brings more than 25 years of career development and management experience in a University environment to Executive Search and Leadership Development. Diane joined Gallagher Executive Search & Leadership Advisors in 2009 to incorporate her network with her keen sense of talent as a Consultant in Retained Executive Search. She embodies the motto…We make a difference in your business…by doing things differently in ours… Diane enjoys Association Affiliations with the Forté Foundation, WACUBO, SACUBO, YMCA, SHRM and SHRM-Atlanta.
Diane has earned degrees from Marquette University, Miami University and The University of South Carolina as foundations for her role as career connector and educator. She also serves a guest blogger for the Society of Human Resource Management in the areas of recruitment, retention and employee satisfaction.
A lifelong student of human nature, best-selling author, and celebrated coach, Angela has devoted over two decades to helping people maximize career success, positive impact, and joy in life through programs that cultivate elite communication abilities, emotional intelligence, and relationship-building skills in a professional context.
Angela is founder of Career Protocol, an MBA and career consultancy, and FriendMo, an app that makes the habit of building meaningful friendships easy and fun. She previously held strategy, HR and teaching roles at KPMG and The Boston Consulting Group. Angela has a BA in Philosophy from Yale, and an MBA from Chicago Booth.
In her role at Forté, Amy introduces women to new ideas and deep networks. She is focused on finding new ways to leverage and extend Forté’s programming to support both professional women and the organizations in which they operate. Amy is also a co-author and architect of the Forté Allies for Gender Equity (formerly Men as Allies) initiatives which offer men a framework to be stronger allies in gender equity.
Dr. Julie Pham is the founder and CEO of CuriosityBased, an organizational development firm based in Seattle. Dr. Pham is the author of No. 1 Amazon Bestseller “7 Forms of Respect: A Guide to Transforming Your Communication and Relationships at Work” (2022), as well as “Their War: The Perspectives of the South Vietnamese Military in the Words of Veteran-Émigrés” (2019). A contributor to Forbes.com, the San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times, Crosscut, and other media, she also has been a correspondent for New America Media.
Dr. Pham was born in Saigon, Vietnam, and came to the U.S. with her parents as boat people in 1979. She earned her doctorate in history at Cambridge University as a Gates Cambridge Scholar in 2008 and graduated magna cum laude from University of California, Berkeley, as a Haas Scholar in 2011.
Her parents, Kim and Hằng Phạm, founded the Người Việt Tây Bắc newspaper in 1986 and she managed the paper during the recession. She founded an ethnic media coalition in 2010 and has worked as a journalist, historian, university lecturer, marketer, nonprofit executive and management consultant.
Dr. Pham has been recognized with numerous awards for her community leadership including Female Founders Alliance Champions Award (2019) in Advocate category; Harvard Business School’s Young American Leaders Program (2018); German Marshall Memorial Fellow (2015); Gates Cambridge Scholar (2001); Puget Sound Business Journal “40 under 40” honoree (2011); University of Washington Women’s Center Woman of Courage honoree (2012); and winner of the Tatsua Nakada Youth Award (2012). She lives in Seattle.