Plenary Speakers

Plenary Speakers

Alyse Nelson

Co-Founder, President & CEO, Vital Voices Global Partnership

Alyse Nelson is president and chief executive officer of Vital Voices Global Partnership. A cofounder of Vital Voices, Alyse has worked for the organization for 19 years, serving as vice president and senior director of programs before assuming her current role in 2009. Alyse has worked with women leaders to develop training programs and international forums in over 140 countries and has interviewed more than 200 international leaders, including Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former presidents Mary Robinson and Bill Clinton, as well as Nobel Peace Prize laureates Aung San Suu Kyi, Wangari Maathai, and Muhammad Yunus. Under her leadership, Vital Voices has tripled in size and expanded its global reach to serve a network of over 15,000 women leaders in 144 countries.

Previously, Alyse served as deputy director of the Vital Voices Global Democracy Initiative at the U.S. Department of State. Her position aided former First Lady Hillary Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s commitment to promote the advancement of women as a U.S. foreign policy objective. Alyse helped design and implement Vital Voices initiatives throughout the world. From July 1996 to July 2000, Alyse worked with the President’s Interagency Council on Women at the White House and U.S. Department of State. She attended the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, in 1995. Alyse is a Member in the Council on Foreign Relations. She serves on Secretary Clinton’s Advisory Committee on Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society and is a Board member of Running Start and RAD-AID International. Alyse is a part of the Expert Group for the B Team and is on the Advisory Board of Chime for Change.

Alyse is the author of the best-selling book “Vital Voices: The Power of Women Leading Change Around the World,” which shares the stories of remarkable, world-changing women, as well as the story of how Vital Voices was founded, crossing lines that typically divide.

Alyse has been featured in international and national media, including the Washington Post, Financial Times, the Miami Herald, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Reuters, and has appeared on BBC, PBS, CNN, NPR, FOX News, and CNBC. She completed her graduate degree work at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. In 2006 Alyse was named one of ”Ten Women to Watch” by Washingtonian Magazine and was honored by her alma mater, Emerson College, with the distinguished speaker award.  In 2011 she was featured in Newsweek as one of ”150 Women Shaking the World,” and in 2012 she was The International Alliance for Women (TIAW) World of Difference 100 Award recipient. In 2013, Alyse was invited to speak at the UK Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and at the Department for International Development’s Distinguished Speaker Series. In 2014, Alyse was invited to speak at the Oxford Union at Oxford University and Fortune Magazine named Alyse one of the 55 Most Influential Women on Twitter.


Amanda Ellis

Executive Director, Hawaii and Asia-Pacific, Arizona State University

Amanda Ellis currently serves as Special Advisor in the Office of the President at the East West Center.  Until March 2016 Ms. Ellis served as New Zealand’s Head of Mission and Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva and the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to Francophone Africa.  From 2010 she was Deputy Secretary International Development and the first woman to head the New Zealand Aid Programme, managing an annual budget of over $0.6 billion. Prior to this, Ms. Ellis was Lead Specialist in the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Group at the World Bank Group in Washington D.C., where she managed the World Bank President’s Global Private Sector CEO Leaders Forum and led the Doing Business gender research project which created “Women, Business and the Law.” While at the World Bank, she worked with the Economist Intelligence Unit to create the EIU Women’s Economic Opportunity Index.  Ms. Ellis also founded the International Finance Corporation’s gender program, where she developed the first lines of credit for women entrepreneurs in Africa delivered through local banks.  In the late 1990s she served in senior executive roles at Westpac Banking Corporation in Australia, including as Head of Women’s Markets and National Manager Women in Business.

Ms. Ellis is the author of two best-selling Random House books, Women’s Business, Women’sWealth and Woman 2 Woman and lead author of five research titles in the World Bank Directions in Development series on gender and growth in Africa, the Middle East, East Asia and the Pacific.  A founding member of the Global Banking Alliance for Women, Ms. Ellis is the recipient of the TIAW Lifetime Achievement Award for services to women’s economic empowerment and the East-West Center Distinguished Alumni Award.  Amanda serves on the advisory boards of the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles, Women in Leadership Europe, WEConnect International, and FINCA International Foundation. She is a member of NZ Global Women and an honorary member of BPW International. She serves on the Friends of the East West Center Board, the World Economic Forum Future Agenda Councils and the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Advisory Committee on economic inclusion.

She holds a BA First Class Honors degree in French and Economics from the University of Otago, New Zealand, an MA degree from the University of Hawaii at Manoa which she earned on an East-West Center scholarship, an LTCL from Trinity College London. She has taken part in executive education programs at Harvard University, Stanford University and INSEAD.


Ashifa Jumani

Director of Procurement, TELUS

Ashifa is a local Vancouverite who graduated from UBC with a Bachelor’s degree in Science. After working in the Real Estate market for a number of years, she moved to Ontario to pursue her interest in Procurement.

Ashifa has over 20 years in procurement at such companies as Synnex, American Express, Pfizer and TELUS. Ashifa started at TELUS in 2010 as a Strategic Sourcing Manager and was promoted to Director Procurement in 2013. Her team manages approximately $3B in annual spend in marketing, real estate, mobile technologies, human resources, customer premise equipment, supply chain operations, finance, travel and most recently, home security. While at TELUS, Ashifa has won the Passion for Growth award and has been nominated for Diversity Champion, Distinguished Leader and Chloe awards.

Ashifa is a strong believer in giving back to the community and involves her 12 year old daughter in participating in annual TELUS cares days as well as volunteering for activities within her community.

Ashifa is involved with organizations such as WBE, CAMSE, CGLCC and GroYourBiz, where she enjoys supporting people of diverse backgrounds to achieve their business goals.

Betty J. Hines

President, Betty Hines Business Builder

Betty J. Hines is a Strategic Business Consultant who works primarily with CEOs and their Executive Management Teams in both the public and private sectors. However, many know her as a “Chief Collaborator,” “Business Connector,” “Women Business Advocate”, and founder of W.E.W Women Elevating Women.

Going above and beyond, Hines is an entrepreneur, speaker, business mentor and coach, certified group facilitator and served as a corporate executive, at a multibillion-dollar Fortune 100 Company, for many years. She was the former co-founder/owner of a property and casualty company that provided small business, homeowners, and automobile insurances to the underserved urban markets in the greater Baltimore and Washington, DC communities. Currently, she offers consultation with women entrepreneurs, who desire to elevate their businesses to the next level as a million dollar business. Betty exemplifies her value as a strategist consulting on how to scale and elevate. As a Chapter Chair for the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), a non-profit membership organization for women presidents, CEOs, and managing directors of privately held, multimillion-dollar companies, she facilitates monthly meetings that provide solutions to business challenges through shared experiences and expertise. In serving as a Chapter Chair with WPO, in order to increase visibility in the multi-cultural business community, and attract more diversity in WPO, Betty became one of the founding architects of the Women of Color Achievement Awards, in collaboration with Women Presidents’ Organization and The 100 Black Men of America, Inc. Since 2010, the Women of Color Achievement Awards celebrated in 22 cities across the country, including London, United Kingdom.

Betty also produces 1-day conferences in Greater Baltimore/DC area and Atlanta on W.E.W. Women Elevating Women. This is a platform for multicultural women executives and entrepreneurs to come together and openly share and discuss what they did and what they need to do in order to sustain momentum, to reach new heights in their business and personal lives. It is about access to capital and more importantly for this group of women, access to opportunities. It is about knowing when you should have a Mentor, a Sponsor, or both. The Women in W.E.W use this platform as their golf course. W.E.W membership is our Country Club.

From her in-depth experience as both a corporate executive and women business owner, Hines has firsthand knowledge on the challenges multicultural professional women face trying to survive in a fast-paced and constantly changing business community. Realizing that currently, few platforms exists that engages multicultural professional women in active dialogue to assist in developing successful tactics and strategies on how to scale and grow their businesses. This elevated her desire and increased her passion to fill this void. From these teaching moments, Hines defined her five Pillars of Success: Courage, Communicate, Collaborate, Connect and Cultivate. Women Elevating Women is teaching women with drive how to survive and thrive together.

When Betty is not being a women business advocate, Hines is active with the National United Church Ushers Association of America/Interdenominational Church Ushers Association of Maryland, Inc. /Baltimore Unit, the Local Lay at Mount Pleasant AMEC, and most recently elected to the American Cancer Society Board of Directors, Northeast Region. She is a Lifetime Member of VFW Auxiliary #521, and has served on numerous nonprofit boards. A few Boards served are Women Presidents’ Organization, Trustee Advocate Maryland Hospital Association, Ladies of America, Lifebridge Health, The Salvation Army Baltimore Area Command, Greater Baltimore Leadership Program, Northwest Hospital, and Mercy Hospital Women’s Advisory Board. She has been inducted into the “Circle of Excellence” with the Daily Record Maryland’s Top 100 Women.

Hines is a graduate and Lifetime Alumna the University of Michigan. She has received Executive Training in Strategic Leadership from Northwestern University, Kellogg Business School and has her Advanced Group Facilitation Certificate from the Edward Lowe Foundation. At present, Hines is training for a certificate on the One Page Business Plan.


Cassandra Dorrington

President & CEO, Canadian Aboriginal & Minority Supplier Council (CAMSC)

Cassandra Dorrington and her team lead the charge of championing business relationships and economic growth of the Canadian supply chain through the inclusion of Aboriginal and Minority suppliers. During her tenure, Cassandra has been focused on the expansion of the CAMSC brand both nationally and internationally resulting in significant growth and impact in the Canadian marketplace.

With approximately 450 certified suppliers, 85 corporate members and more $4 Billion plus in diverse spend, CAMSC is a proud member of both (SDAC) Supplier Diversity Alliance Canada, the single voice for supplier in Canada,  and a founding member of  GSDA (Global Supplier Diversity Alliance)  promoting supplier diversity across the globe with sister councils in Australia, China, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Known for her involvement in both the business and community environment, Cassandra has been named one of Diversity Canada’s Influential Women in Diversity and HR and sits on the National Advisory Council for Public Service Procurement Canada (PSPC) for the Government of Canada, Dalhousie University Board of Governors as well as she is a member of two national Departmental Audit Committees.


Catherine Grosz Photo

Catherine Grosz

Manager, Supplier Diversity, BMO Financial Group

Overseer of BMO Financial Groups Supplier Diversity program across Canada and the United States. Active involvement with local, national and global diversity organizations. Outreach and accessible to advocacy groups, trade associations and community organizations to proactively identify certified diverse businesses with potential to become suppliers to the Bank. Board Memberships with WBE Canada and Board Chair for the Canadian Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC).


Darrell Schuurman

Co-founder & CEO, Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce

Darrell Schuurman, MBA, is an advocate of effecting social change through the economic empowerment of LGBT+ entrepreneurs. He is the co-founder and CEO of the CGLCC, Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce, a national not-for-profit organization with a mission to expand the opportunities and advancement of the LGBT+ business community in Canada. Darrell is also passionate about strengthening Canada’s tourism industry.  He was the co-founder of Travel Gay Canada, an organization focused on increasing tourism receipts to Canada, and Managing Partner at DNA Marketing Group, a specialized marketing company for the tourism industry. Prior, he spent 6 years with VIA Rail Canada and 5 years with the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council. Darrell completed his Bachelor of Commerce Degree at the University of Calgary, and completed his Executive MBA from Richard Ivey School of Business, Western University..


Darryl Plecas

MLA Abbotsford South and Speaker, Legislative Assembly of British Columbia

The Honourable Darryl Plecas was first elected MLA for Abbotsford South in 2013 and re-elected in 2017. He was appointed Speaker of the Legislative Assembly on September 8, 2017.  Dr. Plecas served as the Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors to the Minister of Health and the Parliamentary Secretary for Accessibility, and also as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. He chaired the Premier’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Crime Reduction during the 40th Parliament. He has been a member of the Legislative Review Committee, the Select Standing Committee on Health, the Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth, and the Special Committee to Review the Independent Investigations Office. Prior to his election as MLA, Dr. Plecas was the RCMP Senior University Research Chair and Director for the Centre for Public Safety and Criminal Justice Research at the University of the Fraser Valley, where he worked for 34 years. He holds two degrees in criminology from Simon Fraser University and a doctorate in higher education from the University of British Columbia. He is the author or co-author of more than 200 books, international journal articles, and research reports addressing a broad range of public safety issues. His most recent book, which he co-authored in his current role as professor emeritus at the University of the Fraser Valley, focuses on how government professionals can make better decisions. Dr. Plecas has volunteered with many organizations, including the Salvation Army, BCIT, the Correctional Service of Canada, the Justice Institute of BC, the United Way, the Abbotsford Police Department, the Fraser Valley Child Development Centre, and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. He is the recipient of numerous recognitions including the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia Award for Public Safety, the CCSA Award of Excellence, the University of the Fraser Valley’s Teaching Excellent Award, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and the Order of Abbotsford.


Deidre Guy

Founder, Inclusive Workplace & Supply Council of Canada (IWSCC)

Deidre Guy has more than 25 years of sales, project management, and customer service experience, Deidre brings a broad range of skills to the Inclusive Workplace and Supply Council of Canada. 

As a senior team member of a for-profit company that is diversely owned, and has a focus on accessibility, Deidre recognized the gap in official certification of both Veteran owned and disabled owned businesses in Canada.  With that in mind, Deidre has taken on the challenge of increasing representation of those Diverse Suppliers within Canadian supply chains through the formation of the IWSCC.  The IWSCC is a proud member of the SDAC (Supplier Diversity Alliance Canada) as well as CAN (Canadian Accessibility Network).

Prior to founding the IWSCC, Deidre held senior management positions at several large security firms leading client teams to successfully grow business year over year while driving higher levels of customer satisfaction.


Dr. Dionne Laslo-Baker High Res

Dr. Dionne Laslo-Baker

PhD in Medical Science and CEO, DeeBee’s SpecialTea Foods

Dr. Dionne Laslo-Baker is more than just your average mom. As a medical scientist with a PhD from the University of Toronto, she spent years studying how the environment and the food we consume impact our health and wellness. Her dissertation focused on the study of toxins on fetal development and the Canadian Institute of Health Research gave her a doctoral award for her professional work in this field.
During her Masters degree training, Dionne was named Humanitarian of the Year at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. She is widely published in medical literature and has taught courses in human anatomy and physiology at both the University of Toronto and Dalhousie University.
The focus on health and wellness transcends her workplace – it has become an intimate part of her life, a personal passion. This passion for wellbeing is the guiding force in her day-to-day life, which she openly shares with her own family and families across the country.
The idea of TeaPops was conceived as a casual conversation between Dionne and her two sons. Realizing that grocery stores did not provide many nutritional choices for treats, Dionne and her husband, Dr. Stephen Baker, MD, began experimenting with organic fruit and various flavours. Their research and experimentation led them to produce the world’s first organic tea and fruit frozen novelty — the TeaPop!


Leah Lizarondo

CEO & Co-Founder, 412 Food Rescue

Leah is the CEO and co-founder of 412 Food Rescue, a social enterprise with a technology, logistics and civic engagement model that aims to fight hunger and promote sustainability by preventing perfectly good food from entering the waste stream and directly distributing to organizations that benefit those who are food insecure. Founded in 2015, 412 Food Rescue is one of the fastest-growing food recovery organizations in the U.S. Creating the infrastructure for national retailers, 412 Food Rescue has prevented over 7 million pounds of food from going to waste via technology that mobilizes over 8,000 drivers in 5 cities –food rescue heroes–the largest volunteer food transport network. 412 Food Rescue’s innovative distribution model bridges the last mile and significantly impacts access and food security as well as mitigates food waste’s impact on the environment. By redirecting surplus food about to go to waste, 412 Food Rescue responds to SDG Target 12.3 – to halve per capita food waste by 2030, as well as redirects perfectly good food to organizations that serve those who are food insecure, responding to SDG 2. Food waste is one of the major sources of carbon emissions and wastes significant natural resources. By redirecting food from going to landfill, the organization also helps mitigate climate change, responding to SDG 13.

Set to expand globally, Leah’s work at 412 Food Rescue has been featured in national media including NPR, Fast Company, FoodTank, Martha Stewart Living, Food & Wine, Saveur, Organic Life, Bust Magazine, Redbook, Success Magazine and Civil Eats. In April 2014, she gave the TEDx Talk “Why the Farm Is Not Getting to the Table.” Leah was named in FoodTank‘s “17 Food Heroes to Inspire Us in 2017″ and in 2018 she was named “Pittsburgher of the Year” by Pittsburgh City Paper. Additionally, 412 Food Rescue was recognized as Pittsburgh Tech 50’s “StartUp of the Year” in 2018 and received the Carnegie Science Award for Information Technology in 2019 – making it the first social enterprise to receive both awards.

Leah received her graduate degree in Public Policy & Technology from Carnegie Mellon University. She serves as Entrepreneur in Residence at the Block Center for Technology & Society at Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. She was born and raised in the Philippines and currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.



Leann Hackman-Carty

Partner, Hackman Carty & Associates & Managing Director Alberta, GroYourBiz Ltd.

Leann Hackman-Carty is committed to creating a better, more disaster-resilient world for families, businesses, and communities. Throughout Leann’s career, her leadership ability, entrepreneurial drive, innovative thinking and extensive network have enabled her to establish partnerships across sectors, industries, and borders; anticipate emerging and ongoing business needs; and design new ways of providing goods and services. For over a decade, she served as the Mayor of Calgary’s Executive Assistant, Community & Economic Development. Following that, she managed several political election campaigns; led key initiatives in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sector; provided business development services to the States of Mississippi and Georgia; provided leadership for the Organization of Women in International Trade; hosted numerous international trade delegations; offered a range of innovative business and economic recovery services; and worked on a number of high profile investment projects. She currently serves as the CEO of Economic Developers Alberta and heads up HackmanCarty & Associates– with a focus on building strong, resilient businesses and communities. In December 2017, she released her “Master Your Disaster” readiness, response and recovery guides, which are readily available in paperback, Kindle, audiobook, and Spanish formats. She shares her expertise at conferences and events on a regular basis.


Dr. Maymunah Kadiri

CEO & Founder, Pinnacle Medical Services

Dr. Maymunah Yusuf Kadiri popularly referred to as “THE CELEBRITY SHRINK,” is a multiple award winning Mental Health Physician & Advocate with over 15years experience. She is the Medical Director and Psychiatrist – In – Chief at Pinnacle Medical Services, Nigeria’s leading and foremost Psychology and Mental health hospital prominent in the application of innovative clinical approaches in the management/treatment of a wide range of psychological, emotional, and behavioral related disorders. “She is the only Nigerian with the 10Ps…..Physician, Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Psychotherapist, Practitioner (NLP, BFB, NFB), Public Speaker, Publisher, Producer(movies), People oriented and Passionate about God and life.” The founder of Pinnacle Health Radio, African’s #1 online health radio and a non for profit organization, “Pinnacle Medicals SPEAKOUT Initiative” which is geared towards creating Mental Health literacy in Nigeria and beyond. The Executive producer of award winning movies, Pepper soup (focused on drug abuse) and Little Drops of Happy (focused on depression, postpartum depression and suicide) and creator of the most innovative mental health app in Africa, HOW BODI. As a forerunner in the practice of Mental health and other novel therapy techniques in Nigeria, she continues to be the most sought after Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist in Nigeria and beyond. A Goldman Sachs scholar, Vital Voices Fellow, an Ashoka change maker, a global thought leader and has been recognized locally and globally for her movement in the field of health and wellness, especially mental health. She is a global affiliate of Work Place Options (United States and United Kingdom) and provides Critical Incidence Stress Management (CISM) and other forms of employee assistance programs to corporate organizations worldwide. A graduate of Entrepreneurial Management with the Enterprise Development Center of Pan Atlantic University and China European International Business School. A trained and certified Rational Emotive and Cognitive Behavioural Therapist from Albert Ellis Institute, New York, and Beck’s Institute for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Philadelphia, USA. Her driving force is to live, to learn and to impact generations positively. When not working as a Physician, she loves to tour the world, work on disruptive innovations and talk fashion. She is a member of several professional and social organizations locally and internationally.  A life coach, an inventor and married with 3 lovely children.


Silvia Pencak

President, WBE Canada

Silvia Pencak combines over 15 years of hands-on experience in strategic change with expert leadership development techniques and knack for systems to drive change in how Canadian companies purchase their products and services – promoting Canadian women-owned businesses through WBE Canada.

Silvia’s work impacted over 100,000 individuals on 4 continents. She worked with great leaders and diverse teams to help them adopt breakthrough strategic thinking.

Silvia’s areas of expertise are: Leading Change, Management Consulting, Leadership & Team Assessments, Team Synergy & Effectiveness, Leadership Development, Project Management, and Problem Solving.


Susan Beharriell

Lieutenant Colonel (ret’d)

Lieutenant Colonel (ret’d) Susan Beharriell, O.M.M., CD. joined the Canadian Forces in 1973 and was one of the first women to complete the same Basic Officer’s Training as the men. She was also the first woman accepted into the Security Branch and later the Intelligence Branch.

She has extensive experience in Canada at the tactical, operational and strategic levels, in Colorado with NORAD, in Germany with NATO, in Ottawa seconded to the Privy Council writing intelligence analyses for the PM, Cabinet and our Allies, has supported numerous peacekeeping missions and run intelligence for the entire Air Force.  For her efforts improving Canadian/American Intelligence cooperation post 9/11, she was awarded the US Meritorious Service Medal.  She finished her career on the National Security and Strategic Studies staff at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto in the fall of 2008 after more than 35 years of service.  The Governor General inducted her as an Officer of the Order of Military Merit, the military version of the Order of Canada.

LCol Beharriell has an Honours Degree from Queen’s University and is a graduate of Command and Staff Course 16, The National Security Studies Course and numerous intelligence courses. She has written for the Canadian Military Journal, the Air Force Association Magazine, equestrian and travel magazines and has been a columnist for various Wing, Base and local newspapers for many years.

Active with “The Memory Project” as a member of the Speakers’ Bureau, LCol Beharriell is featured in a booklet that is used by Grade 10 students across the country in their studies of 20th century world events. LCol Beharriell is an accomplished horsewoman and a widely-travelled adventurer.

Tara Hartley

Regional Director, Office of Small and Medium Enterprises Pacific Region at PWGSC

Tara Hartley is the Regional Director for the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises at Public Services and Procurement Canada in Pacific Region. She has over 25 years of experience in the federal public service.

She and her team help businesses understand how to do business with the Government of Canada. They also work with their procurement colleagues to promote fair, open access to procurement opportunities.

Tara is passionate about her work, and has had the opportunity to work with the UK government and on projects with public procurement professionals from around the world.

Tara holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration, a Bachelor’s degree in German, and is also a professional storyteller.