Axis Leadership Forum

Breaking Barriers, Powering Possibilities

SAVE THE DATE: Axis Connects third annual Leadership Forum on November 13th, 2024!

Axis Connects hosted the second annual Leadership Forum on Nov 7th, 2023.

Our second annual Leadership Forum provided access to an incredible roster of leadership experts, coaches, executives, and more – a unique summit that left attendees inspired, with new skills, armed with topical and relevant subject matter, and with new connections.

The Forum will provides a multi-perspective approach including fast track learnings on the future leaders of Calgary, the economy, digital transformation and hot topics followed by a networking cocktail reception.

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8:00 – 8:45AM

Registration / Networking

8:45 – 8:50AM

Opening Remarks

8:50 – 9:20AM

Opening Fireside Chat: “How Women in Corporate Leadership are Rewriting the Rules for Success”

Jenna Fisher – Board and CFO Recruiter, Russell Reynolds Associates & WSJ Best-Selling Author

Jenna leads the firm’s Global CFO Practice and specializes in leading senior financial officer assignments and has successfully completed more than 500 CFO and Board searches serving clients across various sectors, including the technology, consumer, healthcare and retail industries. Jenna’s clients include Fortune 1000 corporations, private equity portfolio companies and highly visible, pre-public venture-backed enterprises. She focuses on recruiting CFOs and Audit Committee members, as well as treasurers, corporate controllers, FP&A professionals, internal audit executives and tax specialists. Jenna is also involved helping to prepare organizations for CFO succession.

Moderated by: Jina Abells – Executive Director, Russell Reynolds Associates

Jina has over 20 years of experience in law, large commercial transactions, corporate secretarial, and board governance. Jina holds both a Bachelor of Administration majoring in marketing from the University of Regina and an LLB (JD) from the University of Saskatchewan. Jina is licensed to practice law in the Province of Alberta. She sits on the Board of Directors of the Calgary Airport Authority where she is Chair of the Governance and Compensation Committee

9:20 – 9:50AM

Plenary Session 1: “Our Economy and Where it’s Going”

Carrie Freestone – Economist, RBC

Carrie Freestone is an economist at RBC. She is a member of the macroeconomic analysis group and is responsible for monitoring key indicators including consumer spending, labour markets, GDP and inflation. Carrie also contributes to the national discussion on the impact of the pandemic on women in the labour force. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Queen’s University and a Master of Arts in Economics from the University of Ottawa.

9:50 – 10:05AM

Networking Break

10:35 – 10:45AM

Plenary Session 2: “Women’s Economic Freedom Across the Globe: Why Economic Rights Are a Necessary Step Toward Gender Equality”

Rosemarie Fike, Instructor of Economics at Texas Christian University & Senior Fellow at the Fraser Institute

She is the author of the Women & Progress Report series and the host of The Essential Scholars Podcast, The Realities of Socialism Podcast, and Women, Economic Progress & Markets Podcast. Her research focuses on understanding the role that economic institutions play in improving the lives and status of women around the world.

9:50 – 10:05AM


10:45 – 11:30AM

Morning Breakout Session 1: “Fast Track Your Power of Persuasion”

Jim Parkinson – Principal & Founder, Porter Sloane

Jim is an advisor, trainer, and professional coach to many business leaders and politicians in Canada and the United States. He is the principal and founder of Porter Sloane, a communications firm that helps executives and organizations be more persuasive.

10:45 – 11:30AM

Morning Breakout Session 2: “The Psychology of Self-Confidence; How to build your own and empower others”

Dr. Valerie Taylor, MD, PhD, FRCPC, ICD.D – Department Head at University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services

Dr. Taylor completed a Bachelors of Medical Science and graduated from medical school at Memorial University of Newfoundland. She finished her residency training in Psychiatry, a PhD in Neuroscience and two post-doctoral fellowships at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. She has also obtained a Rotman Advanced Health Leadership diploma and in 2020 she was named one of the top 100 most powerful women in STEM in Canada.

10:45 – 11:30AM

Morning Breakout Session 3: “Amplifying Your Voice to Increase Your Impact”

Shari Graydon – Catalyst and CEO, Informed Opinions

Shari is an award-winning author, speaker and advocate. Since creating Informed Opinions in 2010, she has trained and motivated thousands of women to share their insights from the podium and through print, online and broadcast commentary. Previously she wrote a weekly newspaper column, produced a TV series and performed regular commentary for CBC radio and TV. She also taught communications at two BC universities and served as press secretary to a provincial premier.

11:30 –12:00PM

Networking + Gold Level Speaker Meet & Greet

12:00 – 1:15PM

Keynote Speaker: “Gender Equity in Modern Media”

Geena Davis – Academy award-winning actor, Author, Founder & Chair, Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media

Deborah Yedlin – President and CEO, Calgary Chamber of Commerce

1:15 – 1:25PM


1:25 – 2:05PM

Afternoon Breakout Session 1: “ATB Wealth Panel: Real Talk for Real Life”

A profound power arises when women come together and support other women – when we unite as a community that allows us to safely hold space to share and amplify our voices, and our truth through vulnerable, and authentic connection. In a space where we can be held, met, and seen, deep healing occurs, and anything is possible. We get you, because we are you. We are real women having real conversations about real things that we carry throughout our lives. And in a world filled with so much busyness and noise, we need to look after each other – now more than ever. We invite you to join ATB Wealth’s executive female leaders for a ‘real talk’ conversation that encourages every woman to be their best self. We will share stories of resilience, burnout, mental wellness, leadership, grief and trauma. We believe we are stronger together, and we are here to walk beside you alongside your life journey.

Sherri Wright-Schwietz– Senior Vice-President of Advisory Services, ATB Wealth

Silvi Malinowski
– Associate Vice President of National Growth, ATB Wealth

Samantha Mathison – Associate Vice President of Client and Advisory Experience, ATB Wealth

1:25 – 2:05PM

Afternoon Breakout Session 2: “Unraveling Bias in AI and Machine learning “

Joan Vlasschaert – Manager Data Science, AltaML

John Vlasschaert holds a degree in Environmental Science and a Masters in Geographic Information Systems. Joan’s background is in spatial data science, with a focus on remote sensing (satellite image, drones) and spatial analysis. Joan has applied this knowledge to a broad range of industries including oil and gas, forestry and agriculture. Joan also volunteers extensively in AI for Good, including Women in Geospatial+, Omdena AI for Good, Data for Good Calgary.

1:25 – 2:05PM

Afternoon Breakout Session 3: “Strategic Negotiations – How to Ask for and Get What You Want

Joanna Shea – Managing Partner and CEO, The Negotiations Collective

Joanna has over 20 years of negotiations experience in the natural resource, utilities, infrastructure, health care and education sectors. During that time, she has led over $2B worth of acquisitions, divestments, and contract negotiations. She has project managed and negotiated agreements linked to over $1B in capital projects in both Canada and the United States and held senior leadership roles in commercial negotiations, project management, resource development and organizational restructuring.

2:05 – 2:20PM

Networking, Coffee and Snack Break

2:20 – 3:00PM

Workshop 1: “Lessons Learned on My Journey to CEO”

Kelly Schmitt – CEO, Benevity

Kelly is the CEO of Benevity, a leading provider of global corporate purpose software, providing the only integrated suite of community investment and employee, customer, and nonprofit engagement solutions.  Powering the goodness programs of many iconic brands such as Apple, Google and Nike, Benevity has processed over $13 billion in donations and 65 million hours of volunteering to 430,000 nonprofits worldwide.

2:20 – 3:00PM

Workshop 2: “Intersection of Masculinity and Leadership”

Jake Stika, Co-founder & Executive Director, Next Gen Men

Jake is passionate about changing the way we see, act, and think about masculinity among youth, in communities, and at the workplace. He works towards a future where boys & men experience less pain, and cause less harm. He has earned recognition from Avenue Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40, and the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion.

2:20 – 3:00PM

Workshop 3: “Gender Diversity on Boards…Where Are We and Why?”

Linda Hohol – Corporate Director

Linda Hohol serves on the boards of NAV Canada (NAV), Canadian Western Bank (CWB) and the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD). She Chairs the Board of the ICD, Chairs the Audit and Finance Committee for NAV Canada, serves on the Risk Committee and Chairs the Human Resource Committee for CWB.

3:00 – 3:10PM


3:10 – 3:50PM

Plenary Panel: “Decoding Success, Overcoming Bias”

Nikki Briggs, Head of W by ATB hosts a panel featuring accomplished women business leaders who will share their experiences at the intersection of gender intelligence and success. Our panelists will address crucial questions about overcoming challenges, advocating for gender diversity, and navigating biases. They’ll offer practical strategies for women in leadership and highlight the transformative impact of gender intelligence on organizations. Gain actionable insights, understand the business case for gender diversity, and leave inspired to empower your own success while promoting equality in the business world.

Nikki Briggs
– Head of W by ATB

Chermaine Chiu – Chief Financial Officer, National Music Centre

Amanda Frazer – Chief Financial Officer, Alaris

Gina Thornton Founding Chief Financial Officer, Falkbuilt

3:50 – 4:30PM

Wrap Up Session with Senior Executive Table Hosts

4:30 – 4:40PM

Closing Remarks

4:40 – 6:00PM

Reception: Connection ‘Hour’ + Headshot Photo Booth

This Event is Presented by

This event is powered by the sponsors of Axis Connects and the Calgary Influential Women in Business Awards