2023 Professional Women's Forum: Catalyst

A full-day conference filled with inspiring and energizing sessions designed to foster connections with women across Lancaster County, cultivate professional and personal growth, and celebrate the impact of women in our community.

 DATE: Tuesday, March 28, 2023

TIME: 8:00am - 5:00pm

LOCATION: DoubleTree Resort

                      2400 Willow Street Pike

                      Lancaster, PA 17602

COST: $125 Member; $150 Future Member

We have a lot of amazing content, so make sure you read the whole way through! 

What is the Professional Women(+)'s Forum?

Every year, we host the Professional Women(+)’s Forum as part of our Women in Business program. The Professional Women’s Forum is a full-day conference filled with inspiring and energizing sessions designed to foster connections with women across Lancaster County, cultivate professional and personal growth, and celebrate the impact of women in our community.

From innovation and entrepreneurship to political action and social leadership, women have catalyzed change across industries, communities, and systems. In celebration of Women's History Month, join us to hear the experiences of local women engaged in meaningful transformation within the workplace and the community, learn practical strategies and skills to maximize your own efforts, and understand how to address one of the most critical barriers preventing us from moving forward: ourselves

Through our breakout sessions, you'll have the opportunity to address the following:

  • Unleashing your untapped potential
  • Developing intentional initiatives
  • Navigating change management
  • Igniting community-led movements; and
  • Empowering others to lead transformative change.


8:00 am – Coffee & Networking

8:30 am – Welcome

8:40 am –Plenary Session

9:50 am – Breakout 1

11:00 am – Breakout 2

12:00 pm – Lunch

12:45 pm – Breakout 3

1:55 pm – Breakout 4

3:00 pm – Keynote

4:00 pm – Sip & Share (Happy Hour)

5:00 pm - Program concludes

Keynote: Trust Yourself: Speak Up, Make Your Voice Heard, and Get Out of Your Own Way

Projecting confidence, taking up space, and pushing back when you need to requires that you value yourself. But deep down, many high-achieving women struggle with self-doubt, people-pleasing, and perfectionism – all of which hold them back from making the impact they're meant to. In this keynote, author and executive coach Melody Wilding, LMSW will share insights and actionable strategies to help you own your voice and assert yourself with grace and strength. You'll walk away with practical steps and encouragement to not only be a more powerful advocate, but to also believe in yourself in the process. 

About Melody:

Melody Wilding is an executive and leadership coach for smart, sensitive high-achievers who are tired of getting in their own way. Through her coaching programs, talks, small-group workshops, and articles, she’s here to help you break free from self-doubt and overwhelm, master your emotions, and use your sensitivity as the superpower that it is.

Recently named one of Business Insider’s “Most Innovative Coaches”, Melody coined the groundbreaking idea of “sensitive striving.” She has helped CEOs, leaders, and top-performers at the world’s most successful companies including Google, Facebook, JP Morgan, Verizon, and more. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Oprah Magazine, NBC News, and dozens of other high-profile publications.

Melody is a Sensitive Striver herself, a licensed social worker with a Masters degree from Columbia University, and a former researcher at Rutgers University. She is a professor of Human Behavior at Hunter College and is a contributor to Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Business Insider.

When she’s not helping professionals thrive at the workplace, you’ll find Melody listening to podcasts and geeking out over all things productivity, habits, and psychology.

We will be giving away a few copies of Melody's book, Trust Yourself, at the Professional Women's Forum! Melody will be signing books during the Sip & Share happy hour. A limited number of books will be available to purchase at cost.

Opening Session: A Catalyst for Change through the Power of Education

Najiba Benabess has a profound interest in students. As a leader in higher education, she continues to teach once a year to stay connected to the issues facing students therefore, she is well prepared to manage the new generation of students. She spends time setting the groundwork for change before turning into a more disruptive force. She has a natural ability to shift between the pressure of achieving short- term goals and find ways to build long-term strategy and success in the institution. Najiba's opening session explores her journey and reflects on the critical moments propelling her vision forward. 

About Najiba:

Najiba Benabess serves as Dean of the School of Business and the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at Elizabethtown College, PA. She holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and master’s degree in Economics from Western Illinois University. Prior to Elizabethtown College, Dr. Benabess served as the Dean of the Tabor School of Business at Millikin University in Illinois for five years and as the Director of School of Business and Management in Norwich University in Central Vermont. Over the last twenty years, she has a record of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses and advancing to leadership positions. In October 2020, she completed an intensive Leadership Program through Harvard Business School Executive Education. In August of 2021, she was honored with receiving “Dean of The Year” award for making a significant contribution to the success of the Tabor School of Business while supporting the mission of global diversity and inclusion. 

Breakout Sessions:

Purpose-Driven Leadership: Climbing Your Second Mountain with Dr. Katie Sandoe, Founder & Principal of Light Echo Co. and Executive Director of Girls on the Run of Lancaster and Lebanon

Available during all four Breakout Sessions

There is something empowering (and a little terrifying) about walking the purpose path. You're embarking on an incredible journey that many people will not understand. You're challenging the expected. You're choosing to climb a mountain where the summit is not of personal achievement and accolades, but one of service to others. You're climbing your second mountain, and it's one of the most rewarding adventures of your life! Over the last two decades, Katie has learned many lessons about walking the purpose path, and she is thrilled to share those learnings with attendees. Together, you'll touch upon the importance of your personal philosophy and brand to help you stand out AND make an impact, plus Katie will share some tools to help you strategically live out your purpose. Join us! Some incredible things await you.

Developing Intentional Goals with Karen King, Client Service Associate at RKL Virtual Management Solutions

Available during Breakout 2 (11:00 am) and Breakout 4 (1:55 pm)

When it comes to setting goals for lasting change, we must be intentional and understand the strategies behind developing them. In this breakout session, we'll discuss ways to break down your goals into manageable steps and explore how your mindset plays a pivotal role in creating change in your life. Join me for this hands-on experience where you will learn how to develop intentional goals for our professional and personal life.

In Tides of Change Management, Don’t Forget Your OARS! with Dr. McKenzie Walker, True Edge Performance Solutions

Available during all four Breakout Sessions

The prospect of change in any capacity can feel overwhelming for those who are enlisting the change and for those who are expected to make the changes. There are many Change Management models to be utilized depending on the end goal, but what have been consistent findings in the research are the pitfalls to failed Changed Management and the methods that enhance change achievement. Transformation is a necessary constant in any kind of business and leaders today need to be able to be a “change agent” (catalyst), or risk being irrelevant or ineffective. This session will review the known avenues of failed Change Management and review the OARS techniques of Motivational Interviewing as a simple method of moving into the role of a “change agent.” Successful leaders remain open to feedback, open to seeing difficult realities, and do not fear critical thinking if they are to remain relevant. Using OARS encourages these open communications and enhances “change talk,” a critical component to succeeding in any avenue of transformation.  

From a Spark: Creating an Inclusive Workplace with Sharon Allen-Spann, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, City of Lancaster

Available during all four Breakout Sessions

Often diversity, equity and inclusion are merely seen as buzz words or as a catchy phrase used by leaders. Creating a workplace that makes diversity, equity and inclusion come alive is hard work. A small spark can ignite a flame. In this session, we will explore ways to create more inclusive workplaces with just a spark.

Leading the Charge: Maximizing Your Board Role with Donna Kreiser, McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC

Available during Breakout 1 (9:50 am) and Breakout 3 (12:45 pm)

Board service offers a meaningful way to lend support to a cause or organization close to your heart, while simultaneously providing an excellent opportunity for personal growth and skills development. Those who serve on a board can hone their leadership skills, expand their professional network, and acquire new expertise. With our upcoming seminar, 'Leading the Charge – Maximizing Your Board Role,' we aim to empower women seeking to make a more significant impact on the board of directors. Through this seminar, attendees will learn how to locate the perfect board, serve effectively, and support other women serving in leadership positions, while cultivating new skill sets and forging a solid plan for their journey.

Moving the Needle: Strategies for Community-Driven Collaboration with Willonda McCloud, Bright Side Opportunities Center

Available during Breakout 2 (11:00 am) and Breakout 4 (1:55 pm)

Reflecting on her personal experiences, Willonda will focus on best practices for overcoming challenges for women in leadership, while also discussing why collaboration among women is the key to success. In this session, Willonda will provide insights and strategies for successful collaboration to “move the needle” in your workplaces and communities. Additionally, Willonda will discuss the difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness and overcoming microaggressions in the workplace, critical areas that must be addressed in order to collaborate effectively.  

Meet the Breakout Speakers!

Karen King

Karen is a Client Service Associate for RKL Virtual Management Solutions, specializing in accounting and financial management. She provides accounting and financial reporting support and advice for a wide variety of industries. She works collaboratively and strategically with her clients to proactively solve any issues.

Donna Kreiser

Donna is a member of the Management Committee of the Firm and member-in-charge of McNees Wallace & Nurick's Lancaster Office. She is co-chair of McNees Strategic Solutions Group and a member of the Public Finance and Government Services Group of the Firm. Donna serves as bond counsel, underwriters’ counsel, borrower’s counsel, trustee’s counsel and disclosure counsel to a wide range of public and not-for-profit clients. She regularly acts as bond counsel for state, county and municipal clients in Pennsylvania. Donna has counseled issuers on largescale general obligation borrowings and toll road issuances. She has served as disclosure counsel in connection with a number of significant financings, including the issuance of unemployment compensation funding revenue bonds. Donna regularly acts as underwriters’ counsel and has counseled clients in connection with convention center, airport, hospital and health centers and solid waste financings.

Donna previously served as a deputy general counsel in the Pennsylvania Governor’s Office of General Counsel, where she served as OGC’s liaison on all public finance transactions undertaken by the Commonwealth and its various issuing agencies. As a result of this experience, and during the last twenty years, Donna has developed close professional relationships with key government officials at the local, county and state level. Donna is regularly called upon to offer her insights and unique expertise in many of the most complex local, county and state financings. Donna’s good rapport, credibility and strong relationships enables her to achieve positive and efficient results for the clients of the Firm. Her background and experience also serves her well in her role as Co-Practice Group Leader of McNees Strategic Solutions Group.

Willonda McCloud

Willonda McCloud is a trusted leader and community organizer in Lancaster, PA and the surrounding region. For nearly twenty years she has been at the vanguard of the cross-sector collaboration that has built Lancaster into a national model for nonprofit and public service innovation.  Since 2016, she has served as President and CEO of Bright Side Opportunities Center, a community-based service provider that builds neighborhood capacity through improving the financial, physical, and spiritual health of the southwest Lancaster community. Previously, Ms. McCloud was the Program Director at the Family Health Council, where she managed the HIV/AIDS contract for Central Pennsylvania. She was also the Program Director for the Lancaster County Human Relations Commission, an entity dedicated to eradicating discrimination in the public, private, and educational sectors. Throughout her career she has remained committed to volunteer leadership, serving on both local, national, and international boards and is the past chair of Leadership Lancaster. Ms. McCloud is a graduate of the nation’s oldest Historically Black College, Cheyney University, where she received a degree in Computer and Information Sciences. Her career in Lancaster reflects her dedication to the lives of residents, and the health of their neighborhoods.  

Katie Sandoe 

Dr. Katie Sandoe is an entrepreneur, educator, and taco lover. She believes we're all created for a purpose and that hers is to awaken the power of purpose in others and to help women live into their limitless potential.

For over 20 years, Katie has pushed the limits and challenged expectations in the communications, public relations, and adult education disciplines. She inspires others through her writing, speaking, and workshops on topics like purpose-driven leadership and empowering women.


Sharon Allen-Spann

Sharon Allen-Spann serves as the Leadership Development & Diversity Manager and was promoted to this position in 2020. She brings with her a passion for an equitable and inclusive workplace whose membership is representative of the Lancaster community. Sharon is the City of Lancaster’s first Leadership Development & Diversity Manager. 
Sharon has a big heart for coworkers. Under her leadership, the Human Resources Bureau is creating a learning and development plan designed to foster inclusion with a focus on public service.  The plan includes opportunities for employees at all levels of the organization to engage in both organizational and personal learning.   
Prior to assuming the role of Leadership Development and Diversity Manager, Mrs. Allen-Spann served over 15 years as a Human Resources professional in the public sector. Mrs. Allen-Spann is a graduate of Millersville University and a retired educator.  She was active with the National School Reform Faculty and continues to participate in training that supports her passion around diversity, equity, and inclusion through the Government Alliance on Racial Equity (GARE), YWCA Racial Equity Institute, the School of Inclusion and Activism, and is an active member of the Belonging At Work community.

McKenzie Walker


Dr. McKenzie Walker is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist serving as a Consulting Psychologist with True Edge Performance Solutions, a premier Executive Coaching firm based out of Lancaster and serving clients across the country. Dr. Walker’s focus is on supporting and challenging a broad array of executives, management and employees in meeting their full career potential and supporting businesses, primarily family businesses, in parceling out the often-difficult details and nuances of growing a family business into a business run by family. Dr. Walker is specifically sought out for broad issues of conflict resolution and unearthing “bottom-line” needs that may be obstacles to problem-solving and creating change.  She is the owner of the Behavioral Health and Wellness Academy, a multi-clinician private practice with locations in Hershey, Lancaster and Lebanon. She specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Comprehensive and Neuropsychological evaluations and Court Appointments as a Guardian Ad Litem in contentious custody disputes.  

What is Women(+) in Business?

Women in Business+ (WIB+) connects, cultivates, and celebrates women+ across Lancaster County by providing the community, strategies, and resources needed to navigate challenges and achieve success in the workplace.

We encourage professionals who consider themselves allies of women in the workplace to attend and learn from our programming about how to best support female colleagues. 

Thank you to our sponsors!

Presenting Sponsor:





A/V Sponsor:


3/28/2023 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Eastern Daylight Time
2400 Willow Street Pike Lancaster, PA 17602-4849 UNITED STATES
This event is full.

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