2017 Keynote Speaker

Iram Shah of Schneider Electric

The luncheon features a keynote speaker, who was named the 100 Most Influential People in the UK in 2005.  Her unique background reflects that women’s success is not limited to any sector or place. 2017 Keynote Speaker Iram Shah is no exception. Now Senior Vice President of Customer Transformation at Schneider Electric and the Chairwoman of the Sonia Shah Organization, Ms. Shah has worked for multiple Fortune 500 companies across sectors in five countries.

“I feel that America really is a land of opportunity, where your hard work pays off,” Ms. Shah remarked. “However, no country is beyond improvement, and it has been a valuable experience living in so many countries and learning about the challenges women must cope with in each of them.” This experience, Ms. Shah noted, reinforced to her the importance of creating opportunities for other women and girls, which the Sonia Shah Organization does through educating girls in Pakistan and in the U.S.

Schneider Electric develops connected technologies and solutions to manage energy and process in ways that are safe, reliable, efficient and sustainable.

Schneider Electric has supported and implemented policies that advance and empower women in the workplace. That includes being one of 10 corporate champions for the United Nations’ #HeForShe global solidarity movement. Schneider Electric puts gender equality on the top of its agenda, making diversity not just a human resource focus, but a key business strategy.

For more information about the Sonia Shah Organization, please visit: http://soniashahorganization.com/

2017 Cultural Speaker

Teuta Peja, Fulbright student from Kosovo, is passionate about languages. She speaks four language, Albanian, English, Italian and Serbian. Being inclined and curious of other cultures and societies, she studied English Language and Literature at the University of Prishtina in Kosovo.

Teuta has a keen interest in education and improvement of the women's roles in Kosovar society. She is particularly interested in social, cultural, and educational programs that document gender discrimination in society and advocate for women’s rights and gender equality. She started her professional career as a volunteer with a youth organization to continue working full time for Non-Governmental Organizations and United States Agency for International Development programs assisting civil society organizations aiming to increase citizen awareness and participation in the delivery of justice. Currently, Teuta is pursuing her MA in Women’s Studies and Gender Studies at Loyola University Chicago. Though her main priority is her academic achievement, volunteering for causes promoting civic engagement and human rights are what complement her sense of accomplishment.

2017 Master of Ceremonies/Moderator

Alison Cuddy is the Associate Artistic Director of the Chicago Humanities Festival, the largest and longest running festival of arts and ideas in North America. Before joining CHF, she spent more than 10 years at WBEZ 91.5 FM, the NPR affiliate in Chicago. There she helped launched Odyssey, a nationally syndicated talk show of arts and ideas, hosted the morning newsmagazine Eight Forty-Eight and reported on arts and culture.


In addition to her work with the Chicago Humanities Festival, Cuddy can be found on stages across Chicago, moderating public conversations with many of the city’s cultural institutions and community organizations, including the Gene Siskel Film Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Illinois Holocaust Museum, the Arts Club of Chicago and Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Past Speakers

2016 Expert Speakers Topic: Immigration and Business: Women's Perspective

2016 Expert Speaker: 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.

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...