November 10, 2020 | VIRTUAL CONFERENCE

2020 Quad Cities Conference

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URGENT Quad Cities Conference Update

Knowing that we can not predict what regulations may be in place and/or the comfort level of attendees this fall, Women Lead Change has made the decision to host all fall conferences as completely virtual experiences, including the Quad Cities Conference on Nov. 10.

 Full announcement here


John Deere

2020 Presenting Sponsor

The Speakers

Creative sessions from today's top experts

Carla Harris

Carla Harris

Carla Harris is a Vice Chairman, Wealth Management, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley.  She is responsible for increasing client connectivity and penetration to enhance revenue generation across the firm. She formerly headed the Emerging Manager Platform, the equity capital markets effort for the consumer and retail industries and was responsible for Equity Private Placements.  Ms. Harris has extensive industry experiences in the technology, media, retail, telecommunications, transportation, industrial, and healthcare sectors. In  August 2013, Carla Harris was appointed by President Barack Obama to chair the National Women’s Business Council.

For more than a decade, Ms. Harris was a senior member of the equity syndicate desk and executed such transactions as initial public offerings for UPS, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Ariba, Redback, the General Motors sub-IPO of Delphi Automotive, and the $3.2 Billion common stock transaction for Immunex Corporation, one of the largest biotechnology common stock transaction in U.S. history.  Ms. Harris was recently named to Fortune Magazine’s list of “The 50 Most Powerful Black Executives in Corporate America”, U. S. Bankers Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Finance (2009, 2010, 2011), Black Enterprise’s Top 75 Most Powerful Women in Business (2010), to Black Enterprise Magazine’s “Top 75 African Americans on Wall Street” (2006 – 2011), and to Essence Magazine’s list of “The 50 Women Who are Shaping the World”, Ebony’s list of the Power 100 and “15 Corporate Women at the Top” and was named “Woman of the Year 2004” by the Harvard Black Men’s Forum  and  in 2011 by the Yale Black Men’s Forum.

Ms. Harris began her career with Morgan Stanley in the Mergers & Acquisitions department in 1987.  Prior to joining Morgan Stanley, Carla received from Harvard Business School an MBA, Second Year Honors and an AB in economics from Harvard University, Magna Cum Laude.  Carla has also received Honorary Doctorates of Laws, Humanities and Business from Marymount Manhattan College, Bloomfield College, Jacksonville University, Simmons College, the College of New Rochelle, St. Thomas Aquinas College and Fisk University respectively. Carla Harris is actively involved in her community and heartily believes that “we are blessed so that we can be a blessing to someone else.”

Dr. Steve L. Robbins

Dr. Steve L. Robbins

A powerful storyteller with a powerful story to tell, Dr. Steve L. Robbins has an uncanny ability to inspire people even in the midst of disrupting and challenging the way they think about the world. Born in Vietnam, Dr. Robbins immigrated with his mother to the United States where they faced many challenges during a time when there was much anti-war and anti-Vietnamese sentiment. 

Working through and rising out of the challenges of poverty, discrimination and the tough streets of Los Angeles, Dr. Robbins now brings insightful perspectives on issues of inclusion & innovation, leadership, and the power of caring.

Dr. Robbins uniquely knows how to simultaneously challenge and motivate people with a dynamic use of storytelling, humor and extensive knowledge of pertinent issues and concepts. The inclusive power of his message are why organizations like Coca-Cola, Disney, Walmart, Pixar, NASA, US Navy, Boeing, Dow Chemical, Michelin, Toyota, Exxon Mobil, and numerous others call on Dr. Robbins to inspire, educate and prepare their people for the exciting challenges of dynamic and diverse environments. 

Dr. Robbins earned an undergraduate degree in Communication from Calvin College, and his masters and doctorate in Communication Science from Michigan State University.  His background in communication, socio-psychology and cognitive neuroscience drive his work with individuals and organizations – the core of the work is about understanding human behavior and leveraging human differences in an ever-changing, fast-paced 21st world.

Lauri Freking

Lauri Freking

As a communication trainer, speaker and strategist, Lauri Freking has more than 20 years of experience in the communication industry. She joined Wixted & Company in 2004 and leads intensive communication, media, crisis and presentation training programs for clients in health care, energy, finance and agribusiness. 

Lauri prepares clients to communicate about sensitive issues, face difficult audiences, and respond to hostile news reporters on the local and network television level. Her expertise lies in providing executives and leaders with tailored communication coaching that is professional, candid and gets results. Lauri also offers strategic communication counsel and training for health care clients facing crises and issues such as medical errors, felony drug charges and layoffs.

Lauri spent more than a decade in television news and video production in both the private and public sectors. She spent five years as a television news reporter, photographer and video editor for NBC and CBS affiliates in the Midwest. Her news experience includes running a news bureau and managing daily news coverage while shooting, writing and editing news stories as a reporter. She covered a broad range of news events ranging from human interest to crime and business stories.

Lauri also worked in public broadcasting as a producer and writer for statewide Iowa Public Television. Her experience includes creating award-winning educational content for K-12 schools and producing content for local programs. She also produced, wrote and hosted live, interactive fieldtrips using video conferencing technology and was an on-camera host for  IPTV’s annual fundraising broadcast. She is the recipient of a Telly Award for her work in broadcasting.

A native Iowan, Lauri earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Iowa State University.

Michelle Poler

Michelle Poler

Michelle Poler is a creative and passionate social entrepreneur, keynote speaker, fear facer, and branding strategist.

She is the Founder of Hello Fears, a social movement empowering millions to step outside of their comfort zone and tap into their full potential. She has spoken at TEDx, Google, P&G, Facebook, ESPN, Netflix, Microsoft, Toyota, and many more.

Michelle is also the creator of the project 100 Days Without Fear. Her work has been featured on CBS, CNN, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, NBC and Daily Mail among many others.

Early on in her career she worked as an Art Director at Young & Rubicam for brands such as Hershey’s, Wendy’s, AT&T and Revlon. Michelle is originally from Venezuela and she holds a Masters in Branding from the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Sarah Stevens

Sarah Stevens

In 2016, Sarah left a successful, decade-long career in corporate healthcare in favor of work that better aligned with her passion and purpose. After serving for two years as a freelance consultant to small businesses and start-up nonprofits, Sarah founded The Beautifull Project - a storytelling collective that invites women back to their bodies and into a world where they belong with substance and with strength.

Sarah is a gifted storyteller with a skill for using her own experience as a woman navigating the world in a fat body to invite her audience to encounter the parts of themselves they hide away from the world - the parts they believe to be “too much”. Addressing everything from too-big bodies to a fear of failure that cripples confidence, Sarah amplifies a message that moves beyond a body positive sentiment and creates a movement that makes room for every body to tell their truth and take up space. She draws out confidence and courage. She believes in being free and full. And she will make a believer out of you, too.

Additional Information

Explore all the conference has to offer

Agenda Subject to Change


8:00 a.m.

CEO Forum (By Invite Only)

9:00 a.m.

Opening Remarks

9:15 - 10:15 a.m.

Keynote from Carla Harris

Tools For Maximizing Your Career Success

Hear proven strategies for maximizing success in the seat you're sitting in, or the one you aspire to. Carla discusses the importance of perceptions in the workplace, key relationships to ensure your success, and the power of authentic leadership.

10:15 - 11:15 a.m.

Keynote from Dr. Steve Robbins

Your Brain is Good at Inclusion… Except When It’s Not

A compelling, neuroscience-grounded case for why addressing inclusion and diversity is not an option, but an organizational imperative for excelling in a dynamic, 21st-century world. Listeners will walk away with a greater motivation to engage the work of inclusion and diversity, a better understanding of what that work looks like, and how such work will enhance individual and organizational performance.

11:15 - 11:30 a.m.

Founders Award Presentation - Heidi Parkhurst

11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.


1:00 - 2:00 p.m.

Workshop with Lauri Freking

It's Not About You: Managing Your Fear of Public Speaking

We are all public speakers. Many of us are nervous public speakers. Fear of public speaking can be emotionally difficult, baffling and career limiting.  Whether creating a formal presentation or simply trying to get your idea heard, Lauri Freking, a communications coach with Wixted & Company, will engage the audience with tangible tools to start tackling your fears and getting things done as a presenter and leader.

2:00 - 2:30 p.m.

Mindful Breakout with Sarah Stevens

Stretching & Yoga

2:30 - 3:30 p.m.

Keynote from Michelle Poler

Fear Less, Do More

A talk that will change your perception of fear and inspire you to take action. Michelle’s humorous, refreshing and inspiring speaking style will show you how to challenge your comfort zone to tap into your full potential. In this fun and energizing session, you will learn about:

  • Dealing with the unknown
  • Seeking growth over safety
  • Embracing authenticity
  • Daring to fail
  • Leading with accountability
  • Redefining fear, from obstacle to opportunity

3:30 p.m.

Closing Remarks

Knowing that we can not predict what regulations may be in place and/or the comfort level of attendees this fall, Women Lead Change has made the decision to host all fall conferences as completely virtual experiences including the Quad Cities Conference on Nov. 10.

Individual Registration $185/person: Register Here

We ask that for every ticket allocated, you consider registering your male and minority colleagues and employees as well. Diversity of thought fosters more productive conversations.

SHRM Provider


This program is valid for 5 PDCs for the SHRM-CP® or SHRM-SCP®. 


We'd be thrilled to visit with you about sponsorship opportunities at the Quad Cities Conference. Market your business to hundreds of conference attendees and support advancing women leaders.
Contact Emilyne Slagle at or call (563) 554-8185 to learn about sponsorship opportunities and benefits.

Women Lead Change's Student Track programs are designed to assist aspiring leaders to take a meaningful step on their leadership journey and learn more about women’s leadership and career preparation. As a conference attendee, undergraduate students have access to locally and nationally-known women leaders with invaluable expertise and an opportunity to network with hundreds of professionals within their own community.

Student Track registration is for students currently enrolled in a college or university and high school seniors who are enrolled in AP, IB, Dual Credit or college credit classes. These registrations are available to any college/university/school that buys a block of 10 at $99/student.

Group of 10 - Students Registration: $990

To purchase a Student Track block of tickets, please email for invoicing and registration procedures.

Women Lead Change is committed to making our events accessible to as many individuals as possible -- and the Women Lead Change Scholarship Program exists to make that happen. Applicants are eligible to receive a one-time scholarship to attend a Women Lead Change event. Once a scholarship has been awarded, individuals are not eligible for future scholarships.

Professional Track Application: OPEN NOW

Applications due Oct. 1, 2020

FOR MORE INFORMATION please contact Emilyne Slagle at

Cheryl Riley-Hayles, St. Ambrose University

Penny Wilhelm, Molyneaux Insurance

Teri VanDyke, Townsquare Media

Sharon Holmes, Arconic

Kristina Voyna, John Deere

Kimberly Smith Klosak, John Deere

Alisha Espey, Quad Cities Chamber

Lea Ann Dies, McCarthy-Bush Construction

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Each of the speakers offered something different and I really, really enjoyed all of them. I walked away learning a lot of new information and feeling more confident!

-2019 Conference Attendee

All the speakers were great! I wasn't sure what to expect with the line up, but I was impressed and inspired by my ability to relate to all of them in a personal way and can see how I can better myself just from hearing their words.

-2019 Conference Attendee

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