Women's Leadership Forum

Axis Connects hosts the annual Women's Leadership Forum.

Attend our Women’s Leadership Forum for access to an incredible roster of leadership experts, coaches, executives, and more – a unique summit that will leave you walking away inspired, with new skills, armed with topical and relevant subject matter, and with new connections.

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

Thank you to all who joined us on November 9, 2022! Stay tuned for details and dates for the 2023 summit.


8:00 – 9:00AM Palomino Hall

Registration / Networking 

9:00 – 9:05AM Palomino Room

Opening Remarks

9:05 – 9:50AM Palomino Room

Keynote Address

  • Topic: The Road Ahead for Female Leaders in Alberta

Shachi Kurl will be sharing thought provoking possibilities for aspiring and current female leaders and will dig into the issue of female representation in leadership roles in Alberta (and beyond).

Shachi Kurl, President of the Angus Reid Institute

Bio: Shachi is a consistent contributor to CBC’s “Power and Politics”, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Globe & Mail, Ottawa Citizen, and many more. She spent the first part of her career aspolitical reporter and holds a degree in Journalism and Political Science fromCarleton University. She returned to Carleton University as an Adjunct ResearchProfessor in the School of Journalism and Communication in 2022. She is an Alumnus of the US State Department’sInternational Visitor Leadership Program. She is a national Vice Chair of theCanadian Cancer Society.

Deborah Yedlin, Moderator, President and CEO, Calgary Chamber of Commerce

Bio: Deb joined the Calgary Chamber of Commerce in July, 2021 with a background that includes experience on Wall Street and Bay Street, and more than two decades as a business columnist for various media outlets, commenting on the nexus of business and politics since 1996.

9:50 – 10:20AM Palomino Room

Get Smart Fast - Session 1:

  • Topic: Harnessing Female Leadership to Build Calgary's Future

    Calgary is at an exciting time with new industries and opportunities emerging and expanding. The key to leveraging these opportunities will be the attraction and retention of talent, and particularly ensuring that we create platforms and pathways for everyone to participate and contribute. The role of female leadership in Calgary has gained greater importance and the presentation will discuss how our city is evolving and how women can continue to amplify their impact. Leadership lessons, learned from personal experience, are also discussed to provide practical take-aways on how to navigate your leadership journey.

Dr. Elizabeth Cannon, President Emerita, University of Calgary | Corporate Director | Author

Bio: Dr. Elizabeth Cannon is an expert in Geomatics Engineering and President Emerita of the University of Calgary. She served as the university's eighth president and vice-chancellor, the first alumna to hold that position.

Prior to her appointment as president, Cannon was the dean of the Schulich School of Engineering. Her research has been on the forefront of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) since 1984 and she has commercialized technology to over 200 agencies worldwide. She previously held the NSERC/Petro-Canada Chair for Women in Science and Engineering for the Prairie Region.

10:20 – 10:35AM

Coffee Break 

10:35 – 11:05AM Palomino Room

Get Smart Fast - Session 2:

  • Topic: Our Economy and Where it’s Going

RBC Economics provides cutting edge research and analysis to help Canadians understand what is happening in the national and global economy. During this session, Carrie will cover the near and medium term macroeconomic outlook to help keep you informed on what to expect in the year ahead.

Carrie Freestone, Economist at RBC

Bio: 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 inEconomics from Queen’s University and a Master of Arts in Economics from the University of Ottawa.

11:05 – 11:15AM

Transition Break

11:15 –12:00PM Mustang Room (upstairs)

Becoming Centered Leaders (C-Suite) with guest co-host Johanne Lavoie

McKinsey's research shows that leaders who have mastered “Centered Leadership” inner agility practices are 4x more likely to feel equipped to navigate complex change and 20x more likely to be satisfied in their personal and professional lives. Through an interactive session, grounded in your own professional context, you will gain powerful new techniques and practice them in real time. In turn, they will help you dig deeper to better understand yourself – and how you can achieve and sustain a fulfilling career in senior positions.

Natasha Bergeron, Expert Associate Partner, People and Organizational Performance Practice, McKinsey & Company

Bio: Natasha is an Expert Associate Partner in thePeople and Organization Performance Practice at McKinsey & Company. She specializes in diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I), organizational culture, high performing leadership teams and change management. Most of her work focuses on cultural, operational and digital transformations in aerospace and defence, pblice sector and financial services.

11:15 –12:00PM Arabian Room (upstairs)

Persuasion and Influence | the Art and Science of Getting What You Want (All levels)

Persuasion and influence are the most effective ways of getting more of what we want in the world;  in business and in our personal life. Some people are very persuasive; others are not. All of us have room for improvement. During this session, Jim Parkinson will discuss the core elements of persuasion and the science behind effective influence, including ways to be more persuasive to achieve more, faster.

Jim Parkinson, Principal and Founder of Porter Sloane

Bio: 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 ofPorter Sloane, a communications firm that helps executives and organizations be more persuasive. In the private sector, Jim works with dozens of companies indifferent industries. In the political sphere, he works with candidates of all stripes, at all levels of government as a speaker coach and media trainer. Jim has designed and delivered executive education programs for business and graduate schools in Canada. He has contributed to two books on business development, sales, and persuasion.

12:00 – 1:00PM Palomino Room

Senior Executive Hosted Lunch Discussions

See all Executive Table Hosts

1:00 - 1:30PM Palomino Room

Male Allyship Workshop

  • Topic: The Role of Men to Support Women in Leadership Roles

    Gain insights into the importance of male allyship through this interactive panel discussion with local executive male allies across multiples sectors and Axis Connects founder and Board Chair Heather Culbert.

Jim Dewald, Dean at Haskayne School of Business, U of C

John Kousinioris, President and Chief Executive Officer at TransAlta

John Osler, Partner at McCarthy Tétrault LLP

Heather Culbert, Moderator, Board Director

1:30 - 2:00PM  Palomino Room

Get Smart Fast - Session 3:

  • Topic: The Path to Net Zero

Martha Hall Findlay, Chief Climate Officer, Suncor Energy

Bio: Martha leads Suncor’s efforts to address the nexus of climate and energy. Martha was instrumental in the development of, and plays a critical leadership role on, the multi-company Oil Sands Pathways to Net Zero by 2050 initiative.

She was named a Canadian Climate Champion in 2021 by the British High Commission and the Canada Climate Law Initiative; she was named as one of Canada’s Clean50 for 2022; she was named by the Energy Council as a top global female oil and gas executive and one of the top 275 women influencers.

2:00 – 2:15PM

Transition Break 

2:15 – 3:00PM Arabian Room (upstairs)

Mid-Career: Strategic Networking: Make Your Contacts Count

In today’s world, without knowing the “who” you will never have the opportunity to get your “what.” Participants will learn how to get strategic about fully enlisting their personal (friends and family), professional (coworkers, peers) and strategic (mentors, executives) contacts to get MORE. More confidence. More trust. More opportunities. More value. This session will be delivered interactively, providing attendees with relevant research, case studies, and discussions on topics such as what is networking and why is it critical to your success; how to persuade and influence; what is your value proposition; network styles and types; etc.

Joanna Shea, Co-Founder + Managing Partner, The Negotiations Collective

Bio: Joanna has over19 years of commercial and project negotiations experience in the natural resource, utilities, and infrastructure sectors. She hasproject managed and negotiated agreements linked to over $1B in capital projects in both Canada and the United States and held senior leadership roles in negotiations, project management, resource development and organizational restructuring. Joanna has a BCom from St. Francis Xavier University, is a graduate of British Petroleum’s intensive in-house Conflict and Negotiation straining course, holds a Graduate Certificate in Project Leadership fromCornell University and a Graduate Certificate in Negotiations from the HarvardSchool of Business.

2:15 – 3:00PM Mustang Room

C-Suite: Leading in the Digital Era

In this digital era, it’s never been more essential to lead with social purpose. After all, people want to do business with companies whose values align with their own. But how do you become an organization that prioritizes social purpose? What are the real benefits of adopting social capitalism?

Using examples from her 21-year legacy at TELUS, Zainul will share how she cultivates a culture of giving with her team, and how TELUS, a global leader in social capitalism, is using technology and compassion to help address some of society’s most pressing challenges and enable remarkable human outcomes.

Zainul Mawji, Executive Vice-president and President, Home Solutions & Customer Excellence, TELUS

Bio: Zainul leads the organization responsible for the end-to-end design and delivery of internet, TV, smart security and automation portfolios. Since joining TELUS in 2001, Zainul has held a variety of key leadership roles most recently she served as President, Home Solutions, where she was responsible for our residential business.

Before joining TELUS, Zainul worked in management consulting for PwC and Accenture, with a focus on business strategy development, system implementation and retail operations.

Zainul holds an MBA from the Western University’s Ivey School of Business and a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Queen’s University.

2:15 – 3:00PM Quarter Horse Room (South end of Palomino Hall)

Board Director: Hot Topics/Challenges in Board Governance

The responsibilities of boards of directors continue to evolve and increase. While oversight of strategy, CEO succession, financial reporting, risk and culture remain core to the work of a board, issues such as  corporate purpose, rising stakeholder expectations, shareholder activism, ESG (climate change) and EDI are all clamoring for the board’s attention. In an environment already challenged by the aftermath of the pandemic, rising  inflation and geo political risks, how do boards juggle these competing priorities and make decisions in the best interest of the corporation? This session will not be a lecture, but rather a discussion intended to elicit best practice, tools and guidance for directors.

Linda Hohol, Independent Board Director

Bio: Linda serves on the boards of NAV Canada, Canadian Western Bank (CWB) and the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD).

She was the President of the TSX Venture Exchange at the TMX Group Inc. from 2002 until 2007.  Prior to this she was Executive Vice-President, Wealth Management, CIBC and Senior Vice President Alta and NWT, CIBC. Ms. Hohol has served on the boards of many for-profit, not-for-profit boards and Crown corporations including Export Development Canada, ATB Financial, Calgary Airport Authority, Canada Foundation for Innovation, EllisDon Construction, and Alberta Health Services. Ms Hohol chaired the board of the United Way of Calgary.

3:00 – 3:15PM 

Coffee/Snack Break

3:15 – 4:00PM Arabian Room (upstairs)

Mid-Career: Influence Without Authority

Equipping yourself with the ability to influence all levels of an organization is an essential skill every mid-career female professional needs to future proof their career in 2022 and beyond – regardless of their job title, work experience or position. This interactive workshop will provide participants with practical tools and resources to strategically influence without authority, while learning how to develop critical soft skills required for the next 100 years of work. Participants will also learn powerful strategies to have impactful and meaningful conversations that truly matter to all relevant stakeholders.

Jackie Rafter, President/Founder, Higher Landing Inc.

Bio: Jackie Rafter is a visionary career transformation strategist and entrepreneur with a passion for helping people discover and live their purpose. As Founder, President& CEO of Higher Landing, Jackie helps professionals, executives and globally-known athletes to help them manage and evolve their careers.The proprietary Career Transformation methodology she has pioneered atHigher Landing is being broadly adopted across professions throughout Canada as the country endures significant, disruptive change. Jackie holds dual degrees from the University of Calgary with an MBA and Bachelor of Education (French)and is a champion of helping people live fulfilling, purpose-driven careers.

3:15 – 4:00PM Mustang Room (upstairs)

C-Suite: Future of Work/Transformation 

These days it’s hard to keep up with all the current and emerging workforce trends. From return to the office to hybrid environments, ESG and DE&I initiatives, retaining and attracting top talent amongst economic and macro environmental shifts.  The world at work has changed and as the dust settles (or gets kicked up again) one fact has become clear:  Power has shifted. From organizations to people. From profit to mutual prosperity. From “me” to “we”. With an eye on the ever-evolving future, this session will explore the trends impacting business today with exploration and discussion on what actions leaders can take to address the trends.  From there we will take the conversation to another level by leveraging Korn Ferry’s recent research on ‘CEO Women’s Speak’ to share what women and underrepresented talent can do to thrive in this new way of working.

Jen Isotti, Principal, Leadership Development, Korn Ferry

Bio: Jennifer provides pragmatic solutions to client's talent development initiatives including leadership program design, implementation and facilitation. Ms.Isotti is also certified in KF360, KF Potential, Styles and Climate and has coached numerous leaders on their assessment results. Prior to joining Korn Ferry, Jennifer was Manager, Talent Development Solutions for a North American professional services firm.

She holds a Marketing Management Diploma from Mount Royal University, a Bachelor of Management majoring in Human Resources from the University of Lethbridge and her Masters of Adult Education from Yorkville University. Jennifer is aChartered Professional in Human Resources (CPHR) in good standing at CPHR,Alberta.

3:15 – 4:00PM Quarter Horse Room (South end of Palomino Hall)

Board Director: Moving the Dial on ESG 

Audrey Mascarenhas, President and CEO at Questor Technology Inc.

Bio: Audrey Mascarenhas has worked in energy for more than 35 years with Gulf Canada Resources Ltd. and Questor Technology Inc. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from theUniversity of Toronto and a Master’s Degree in Petroleum Engineering from theUniversity of Calgary. She is a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineers. She is a member of the Schulich Industry Engineering Advisory Council and currently chairs the Canadian federal government clean technology strategy table. Audrey is a fellow of the Energy Futures Lab and co-chairs the Governor General’s Innovation Awards assessment committee.

4:00 – 4:15PM Palomino Room

Closing Remarks  

Dawn Farrell, President & Chief Executive Officer at Trans Mountain Corporation

Bio: Dawn Farrell is an accomplished energy leader, with more than 30 years of experience in the electricity industry. Born in Calgary, Alberta, Farrell graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce and a Master of Arts, from the University of Calgary. She also attended the Advanced Management Program at Harvard University.

Jyoti Gondek, Honourable Mayor of Calgary

Bio: Prior to being elected as mayor, she served as city councillor for Ward 3 from 2017 to 2021. She holds a Ph.D. in urban sociology, and an M.A. in organizational sociology.

Throughout her career, Mayor Gondek has taken a big picture approach to pressing challenges. Often, she has found processes and policies exist simply because they have never been questioned. She has come to understand that by probing and chipping away at issues, we move forward with improvements that have meaning in our everyday lives.

4:15 – 6:00PM

Reception: Connection ‘Hour’  + Headshot Photo Booth


Thank you to our sponsors

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