PASS THE MIC

Looking to make your next business event more diverse, inclusive, and welcoming? There’s no better place to start than with your speakers. The PCMA Ascent initiative has hand-picked a few who may fly under the radar in the speaker circuit but raise the bar in making events more diverse — and way more interesting.

Supported by:

Laurel Bellows

Laurel Bellows

Lawyer, former president of the American Bar Association and the Chicago Bar Association
Patti Temple Rocks

Patti Temple Rocks

Communications professional, crusader against ageism, author
Amy Blankson

Amy Blankson

Founder of TechWell
Karen Baker

Karen Baker

Business owner, consultant, teacher
Pragya Agarwal

Pragya Agarwal

Creative strategist, social entrepreneur
Susan McPherson

Susan McPherson

Founder and CEO McPherson Strategies, angel investor
Ashton Applewhite

Ashton Applewhite

Political strategist, founder of GenderAvenger
Tamika Catchings

Tamika Catchings

Former WNBA champion, Olympic gold medalist, sports executive, speaker
Heather E. McGowan

Heather E. McGowan

Future of work strategist, adviser, and thought leader
Michael Tubbs

Michael Tubbs

Mayor of Stockton, California
Linal Harris

Linal Harris

Founder and principal coach, Insights 4 Life Coaching, LLC
Whitney Johnson

Whitney Johnson

Innovation and disruption theorist
Leah Weiss

Leah Weiss

Educator, author, consultant, speaker
Bridget Brennan

Bridget Brennan

CEO of Female Factor, author
Bozoma Saint John

Bozoma Saint John

Marketing and advertising executive
Robyn Benincasa

Robyn Benincasa

Adventure racing world champion, CNN Hero, founder of Project Athena, author
Leigh Stringer

Leigh Stringer

LEED AP, workplace strategist for EYP, author
Ingrid Fetell Lee

Ingrid Fetell Lee

Designer, author
Leah Lizarondo

Leah Lizarondo

CEO and co-founder 412 Food Rescue
Elise Roy

Elise Roy

Human-centered designer, Elise Roy LLC
Rania Anderson

Rania Anderson

Founder and president of The Way Women Work, executive coach, author
Kristy Tillman

Kristy Tillman

Leader of global workplace design at Slack
Julianne Kanzaki

Julianne Kanzaki

Registered dietitian nutritionist, wellness expert
Sara Ross

Sara Ross

Consultant, founder of BrainAMPED research group, leadership strategist
Tan Le

Tan Le

Founder and CEO of EMOTIV
Courtney D. Cogburn

Courtney D. Cogburn

Assistant professor of social work at Columbia University and pioneer in the use of VR to show racism’s impact
Angelica Ross

Angelica Ross

Actress, founder of TransTech Social Enterprises
Arwa Mahdawi

Arwa Mahdawi

Founder, president, chief hopes and dreams officer, and chief minority officer at Rent-a-Minority
Michelle Gielan

Michelle Gielan

Happiness researcher, author, speaker
Nadya Okamoto

Nadya Okamoto

Founder and executive director of PERIOD
Jodi Bondi Norgaard

Jodi Bondi Norgaard

Consultant, with JB Norgaard Enterprises, founder and creator Go! Go! Sports Girls
Jia Jiang

Jia Jiang

Owner Rejection Therapy, author, entrepreneur
Chip Conley

Chip Conley

Hospitality entrepreneur, author, founder of Modern Elder Academy
Katie Martell

Katie Martell

Co-executive director of Boston Content
Steve Pemberton

Steve Pemberton

Chief human resources officer at Globoforce, author
Von Diaz

Von Diaz

Writer, radio producer
Reshma Saujani

Reshma Saujani

Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code
Anka Wittenberg

Anka Wittenberg

Economist and thought leader on implementing diverse and inclusive workplaces
Raël Nelson James

Raël Nelson James

Director, diversity, equity and inclusion for The Bridgespan Group
Gabby Rivera

Gabby Rivera

Marvel comic book writer
Karamo Brown

Karamo Brown

Television host, activist
Nora Tobin

Nora Tobin

Health and wellness expert, celebrity trainer, lifestyle coach
John Maclean

John Maclean

Wheelchair athlete, triathlete, author
Laurie Santos

Laurie Santos

Professor of psychology, Yale University
Barbara Seymour Giordano

Barbara Seymour Giordano

Speaker, speechwriter, presentation coach
Rachel Carlton Abrams

Rachel Carlton Abrams

Physician, author, consultant
Srinivas Rao

Srinivas Rao

Founder/chief creative instigator at Unmistakable Media, author
Kelly McGonigal

Kelly McGonigal

Psychologist, educator, author
Ayesha Khanna

Ayesha Khanna

CEO of ADDO AI, AI expert, author
Janet Sperstad

Janet Sperstad

Educator, innovator
Gail Lowney Alofsin

Gail Lowney Alofsin

Sales and marketing executive, author, humanitarian
Cam Kashani

Cam Kashani

Co-founder and CEO of COACCEL
Connie Chi

Connie Chi

CEO, marketing and brand consultant
Carla Harris

Carla Harris

Vice chairman, managing director, and senior client adviser at Morgan Stanley
Ritu Bhasin

Ritu Bhasin

Consultant, speaker, author, leadership and inclusion specialist
Molly Breazeale

Molly Breazeale

Founder of AlignED and Fierce Inc. master facilitator
Samantha Skey

Samantha Skey

CEO at SHE Media
Denise Lee Yohn

Denise Lee Yohn

Brand leadership expert, author
Dorri McWhorter

Dorri McWhorter

CEO of the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago
Leila Hoteit

Leila Hoteit

Partner and managing director Boston Consulting Group, engineer, women’s advocate
Samantha Ettus

Samantha Ettus

Author, entrepreneur
Kristen Przano

Kristen Przano

Senior manager, Capital One Garage Innovation Center
Bernadette Smith

Bernadette Smith

Consultant, author, diversity and inclusion expert
Rachel Godsil

Rachel Godsil

Law professor, cofounder of the Perception Institute
Shirley Davis

Shirley Davis

CEO, leadership coach, global workforce expert
Tinna C. Nielsen

Tinna C. Nielsen

Anthropologist, leadership trainer, inclusion and diversity expert
Lee Papa

Lee Papa

Mindfulness and meditation speaker and trainer
Clara Shih

Clara Shih

CEO and founder of Hearsay Systems
Lisa Wang

Lisa Wang

Founder and CEO SheWorx
Paulette Brown

Paulette Brown

First African-American woman president of American Bar Association, senior partner and chief diversity and inclusion officer at Locke Lorde LLP
Nilofer Merchant

Nilofer Merchant

Business strategist and innovator
Natalie Nixon

Natalie Nixon

President and founder of Figure 8 Thinking, LLC.
Tara-Nicholle Nelson

Tara-Nicholle Nelson

CEO and founder of SoulTour, marketer, entrepreneur
Abby Wambach

Abby Wambach

Retired soccer star, advocate for pay equity and inclusion
Aurora Dawn Benton

Aurora Dawn Benton

Founder Astrapto, sustainability strategist, consultant
Vernā Myers

Vernā Myers

Vice president of Inclusion Strategy, Netflix
David Stewart

David Stewart

CEO and founder of Ageist, photographer
Lindsey Pollak

Lindsey Pollak

Expert on the multigenerational workplace, author
Lisa Kay Solomon

Lisa Kay Solomon

Innovator, educator, author
Hattie Hill

Hattie Hill

President and CEO at Women's Foodservice Forum and founder and CEO of Hattie Hill Enterprises
Gina Glantz

Gina Glantz

Political strategist, founder of GenderAvenger
Zontee Hou

Zontee Hou

Founder of Media Volery, co-leader of the Convince & Convert consulting team
Joshna Maharaj

Joshna Maharaj

Chef, activist
Omar Johnson

Omar Johnson

Marketing and brand expert, entrepreneur, author
Tahira Endean

Tahira Endean

Author, event design instructor and producer
Mercedes Hunt

Mercedes Hunt

Founder of Map & Compass Consulting and director of undergraduate business programs at Granite State College

The Ascent CEO Promise

What is Ascent?

  • Ascent is an initiative by PCMA-Convene to promote inclusion and diversity across the business events industry.
  • Ascent seeks to empower those challenged by gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, or disabilities to find success in our industry.
  • Ascent strives to motivate and to educate decision-makers on the business case and best practices for inclusive workplaces and events.
  • We believe that greater inclusion across the industry will foster new voices to strengthen our leadership, our businesses, and our world.
  • By working together toward inclusion and diversity within our workplaces and at the events we produce, we will enact meaningful social change.