2016 Keynote Speaker

Sheila Watt-Cloutier

Sheila Watt-Cloutier is one of the world’s most recognized environmental and human rights advocates. Experienced in working with global decision makers for over a decade, Watt-Cloutier offers a new model for twenty-first-century leadership. She treats the issues of our day—the environment, the economy, foreign policy, global health, and sustainability—not as separate concerns, but as a deeply interconnected whole. In 2007, Watt-Cloutier was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore for her advocacy work in showing the impact global climate change has on human rights, especially in the Arctic, where it is felt more immediately and more dramatically than anywhere else in the world. 


In addition to her Nobel nomination, Watt-Cloutier has been awarded the Aboriginal Achievement Award, the UN Champion of the Earth Award, and the prestigious Norwegian Sophie Prize. She is also an officer of the Order of Canada. From 1995 to 2002, she served as the elected Canadian president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC). In 2002, she was elected international chair of the council. Under her leadership, the world’s first international legal action on climate change was launched with a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In December 2015, she received the Right Livelihood Award from Sweden, generally considered the "Alternative Nobel Prize."


Published in December 2015 by Penguin Canada, Watt-Cloutier is the author of The Right to Be Cold: One Woman's Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole Planet.


Sheila Watt-Cloutier on the right to be cold: ‘We gave up our wisdom and control to a power that we feared’ (Globe and Mail interview) 


Sheila Watt-Cloutier wins 'alternative Nobel': Inuit leader receives 2015 Right Livelihood Award for work on climate change in Arctic

 (CBC News article)


2016 Cultural Speaker

Katie Kennicott

Katie Kennicott will speak on how the flower industry positively impacts the women of Colombia and Ecuador. Kathleen Doyle was born in Lansing, Michigan a long time ago, the second of six children (five of them girls). All were educated at Michigan State University. She graduated in 1958 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education with emphasis on History and Mathematics. Harrison Kennicott and Kathleen Doyle Kennicott were married in 1959. They have five children, fifteeen grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Katie taught school for five years before entering the flower industry, with Harrison, as the Business Development and Customer Service Representative for Kennicott Brothers Company. She currently serves as vice-president and on the board of directors. As the company grew, Katie and Harrison traveled extensively to South America, Europe, the Far East, and Australia, in addition to the United States in an effort to locate the best flower growers to serve an ever-expanding global market. Kennicott Brothers Company was started in Chicago in 1881 and continues to this day as an ESOP (employee stock ownership) company under the leadership of the Kennicott family. Kennicott Brothers Company is an importer of fresh flowers with more than 450 employees in sixteen locations in ten states.

2016 Master of Ceremonies/Moderator

Karen Weigert

Karen Weigert just joined the Chicago Council on Global Affairs as Senior Fellow for Global Cities. She served five years as Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Chicago guiding the City’s sustainability strategy and implementation, bringing innovative, practical solutions throughout the work of the City.


Prior to her appointment, Karen served as Senior Vice President of ShoreBank (later Urban Partnership Bank), where she built a national consumer group that generated deposits to support environmental sustainability and community development in low to moderate income urban neighborhoods. 


Before her work in community banking, Karen was a strategy consultant at McKinsey where she served clients on topics including transportation, finance, energy and land use. Karen began her career as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and later served as an appointee in the Clinton administration focused on global environmental issues and agriculture.


Karen is a producer and writer for the documentary film, Carbon Nation, which is focused on solutions to climate change. She is also a former board member of CNT, Foresight Design Initiative and Earth School Educational Foundation.


Karen graduated from the University of Notre Dame (Phi Beta Kappa) and Harvard Business School.

Past Speakers

2015 Expert Speakers Topic: Immigration and Business: Women's Perspective

2015 Expert Speaker: Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director of Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), one of the nation's leading immigrant and human rights advocacy organizations. Ms. McCarthy has testified before congressional committees on human rights and immigration detention reform, speaks frequently at national and international conferences on human rights and immigration law, and is regularly quoted in leading news outlets such as The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

2015 Expert Speaker: Maria Socorro Pesqueira, President and CEO of Mujeres Latinas en Acción, one of the longest standing Latina human service organizations in the nation. Under her leadership Mujeres received the prestigious ORBA Award for Nonprofit Financial Management Excellence. She serves as Board member of the Community Memorial Foundationand as member of the National Advisory Committee of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.

2015 Expert Speaker: Carole Segal, Co-Founder of Crate and Barrel, Founder and Former CEO of Foodstuffs, President of the Segal Family Foundation and Co-Chair of the Steering Committee of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition (IBIC), a growing and diverse set of businesses and business associations promoting sensible, comprehensive federal immigration reform to benefit the people and economy of Illinois. 

2015 Expert Speaker: Michele Wucker, Vice President of Studies at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and former President of the World Policy Institute, a New York based center for global policy thought leadership. Her new book, The Gray Rhino: Why We Keep Missing the Most Obvious Threats -and How We Can Get Out of their Way, was published in Fall 2015 by St Martin's Press.

2014 Keynote: Michèle Ledgerwood, Senior Associate, Center for Strategic and International Studies (Topic: "Seven Revolutions: Global Trends and the Role of Women in 2035"). Michèle is also a senior speaker in the Abshire-Inamori Leadership Academy's Seven Revolutions lecture series and consults regularly with both the Transnational Threats program and the Global Health Policy Center at CSIS...

2013 Keynote: Ellen Costello, Chief Executive Officer of BMO Financial Corp. and U.S. Country Head of Toronto-based BMO Financial Group (Topic: A Conversation - The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion and the Impacts of International Roles). BMO is one of North America's leading financial services providers. Ms. Costello is responsible for providing governance and regulatory oversight for all of BMO's U.S. businesses...

2012 Keynote: Sarah Robb O'Hagan, Gatorade president North America and global chief marketing officer, Sports Nutrition of PepsiCo (Topic: "From the Sidelines to the Workplace: The Increasing Relevancy of Female Leadership") PepsiCo owns the world's largest portfolio of billion-dollar food and beverage brands, including 19 different product lines, each of which generates more than $1 billion in annual retail sales each. With net revenues of approximately $60 billion, PepsiCo employs nearly 300,000 people worldwide...