Women's Forum Schedule 

2024 Women's Forum - Leading Out Loud
Thursday, April 11th
Embassy Suites by Hilton Milwaukee Brookfield


Opening Keynote - "The HEART of the Matter: Innovative Leadership Strategies for Women"
Sherry Budziak
Founder and CEO, OrgSource

"The HEART of the Matter: Innovative Leadership Strategies for Women" is an inspiring session crafted for women leaders seeking to revolutionize their approach to association management through empathy, innovation, and strategic foresight. This session delves into the HEART Leadership Framework, an empowering model that encapsulates the essence of transformative leadership: Humanize, Empower, Ascend, Reimagine, and Transform.

Designed with the challenges and opportunities of the digital age in mind, this presentation is a call to action for women leaders to harness their unique strengths and perspectives. Attendees will explore the importance of humanizing technology to foster deeper connections, empowering teams to unlock their full potential, ascending beyond traditional leadership paradigms, reimagining the role of associations in today's world, and transforming challenges into opportunities for growth and innovation.

Participants will leave with actionable insights and strategies to apply the HEART framework within their organizations, cultivating a leadership style that not only drives success but also inspires change and nurtures community. Whether you're an established executive or an emerging leader, "The HEART of the Matter" promises to be a transformative experience, empowering you to lead with purpose and passion in the ever-evolving landscape of association management. Join us for an empowering journey to the heart of innovative leadership, where your vision can become a powerful catalyst for change.

General Session Keynote - “Stress, Health and You Today”
Shirley J Burks, MA
Speaker - Trainer - Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Champion - Creator of Pathways for Growth, Development & Understanding

Stress is not merely an inconvenience or a passing annoyance; it's a physiological and psychological response to perceived threats or challenges that we encounter daily. Whether it's deadlines at work, financial pressures, relationship conflicts, or health concerns, stress can be infused throughout every facet of our existence.  Join me today as we identify ways to successfully navigate through stressful obstacles. We start today on a healthier journey!

Breakout 1 - Empowering the Next Generation of Female Leaders:
Strategies for Building a Strong Pipeline of Women Board Members and Amplifying Their Impact in Our Communities


  • Nancy Justman, President/CEO
  • Marissa Lopez, CAE, Executive Director
  • Lori Suverson, President/CEO
    • Lori Syverson serves as president/CEO of Milwaukee Women inc (MWi). MWi is a 20-year-old organization of executives determined to change the quality and composition of corporate boards to enhance the performance of public and private companies, with a focus on women and women of color. Research is the foundation of MWi and has been providing annual research on the number of women on corporate boards since 2003.
      Previous to joining MWi, Syverson served 11 years as president of the Edina (MN) Chamber of Commerce, which is also home to Explore Edina, the city’s visitors bureau and The Edina Innovation Lab.
      Syverson received her undergraduate degree from Marquette University (Milwaukee, WI) in journalism and earned her Master’s in Business Administration from Alverno College in Milwaukee, WI. Her background includes print journalism, media relations, marketing and public relations.
  • Peggy Williams-Smith, President/CEO
    • Named the 2022 Executive of the Year by the Milwaukee Business Journal, Peggy Williams-Smith is a Milwaukee native and veteran of the hospitality industry who joined VISIT Milwaukee as the company’s first female president and CEO in 2019. Under her direction, the company has launched exciting, dynamic marketing campaigns to increase economic impact to the community and elevate the city’s reputation. Peggy’s focus on strategic partnerships has deepened the company’s local connections while developing a nimble team that is more responsive than ever to changes within the travel and hospitality industries. This was none more apparent than during the pandemic when VISIT Milwaukee became the go-to source for information for the hospitality industry and the industry’s No. 1 advocate on state and local levels. From gaining recognition in National Geographic magazine as one of the best places in the world for travel in 2023 to securing the 2024 Republican National Convention, Williams-Smith’s strategic leadership has brought economic gains to Milwaukee for years to come. Prior to her work at VISIT Milwaukee, she worked for Marcus Hotels & Resorts for over 22 years and held leadership positions at varying levels throughout the division. Williams-Smith is a proud mentor of other women in business and uses her free time to support numerous charitable causes. She resides in Milwaukee with her husband, Tim Smith, their niece, Jocelyn and their Boston Terrier, Tito Fenway.

Breakout 2 - Mastering Assertiveness
Autumn Way
CEO, People Possibility

Confidently assert your presence, express your needs and views, and lead with authenticity and respect.

Autumn Way brings over 23 years of experience leading branch banking teams at Wells Fargo, where she honed her exceptional leadership skills and people-first approach. During her tenure, Autumn was instrumental in creating a culture of engagement and positivity, significantly contributing to the organization's success. Her strategic leadership not only aligned team members’ roles with the company's mission and purpose but also ensured that each individual felt their impactful contribution towards shared goals.

With a deep-rooted expertise in human capital management, Autumn has a proven track record of identifying and developing diverse talent, crafting effective development and succession plans, and fostering a positive performance management culture. Her leadership excellence was further demonstrated through her ability to guide large teams through significant organizational changes, ensuring stakeholder buy-in, facilitating comprehensive training, and supporting team members every step of the way.

After her impactful career at Wells Fargo, Autumn founded People Possibility, leveraging her extensive experience to drive organizational success through strategic leadership and a committed focus on empowering employees. Her analytical prowess in evaluating talent programs and people projects, coupled with her collaborative approach with stakeholders, underscores her role as a solution-oriented leader dedicated to innovation and excellence.

Breakout 3 - The Power and Impact of Mentorship for Women: Leveraging the Relationship for Mutual Growth and Success
Jennie Socha
Executive Director

Breakout 4 - "Tales from the Darkside: Overcoming Adversity and Finding Resilience"
Sherry Budziak
Founder and CEO, OrgSource

Dive into a highly interactive session designed to leverage the collective wisdom of participants for solving real-world challenges. This session offers a platform for individuals to present an issue they are facing, sparking a dynamic exchange of insights and recommendations in a community-driven atmosphere.

Participants will have the opportunity to present their challenges by describing the problem, why solving this issue matters, and assistance they are seeking from the community. Participants will ask clarifying questions to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the issues. Then audience members provide their insights, suggestions, and strategies for tackling the presented issues in a rapid-fire format, ensuring a diverse array of solutions.

This session is perfect for those eager to:

  • Receive quick, diverse insights into their challenges.
  • Offer their knowledge and expertise to help others.
  • Engage in a fast-paced, solution-oriented discussion.
  • Connect with individuals facing similar issues or possessing complementary skills.

Attendees will gain:

  • A variety of perspectives and potential solutions to their problems.
  • Insights into different problem-solving approaches.
  • New connections with potential collaborators or mentors.
  • An enriched skill set in presenting and dissecting complex issues succinctly.

Step into a session where your challenges are met with the collective expertise and creativity of the community. Whether you're in search of solutions or keen on contributing your wisdom, this brisk session is an opportunity not to be missed for impactful learning and connection.

Closing Keynote
Dr. Stacia Thompson
President/CEO, Sherman Phoenix Foundation