Culverhouse DEI Women in Business Conference
March 25 & 26, 2022
Conference Schedule

Friday, March 25 | Alston Hall, Room 30

12:00 -4:45 p.m.


1:00 - 1:45 p.m.

Women in Leadership Research: Implications and Applications

We know based on research and experience that women are often treated differently in the workforce. In this session, we’ll explore the academic research on women in leadership roles, and how you can utilize this research to help your own career trajectory.

Dr. Maura Mills is an Associate Professor of Management at Culverhouse College of Business, University of Alabama. She earned her Ph.D. from Kansas State University, during which time she also worked as an organizational consultant for Sirota Consulting. Her research falls under the umbrella of positive organizational behavior, with foci on the work-life interface, gender, and employee attitudes. Dr. Mills has published over 30 peer-refereed articles, several book chapters, and various industry publications, in addition to making a number of media appearances. Her recent edited book, Gender and the Work-Family Experience: An Intersection of Two Domains, was met with wide praise and is being used as a textbook in relevant courses, as well as to guide future research at the intersection of work-family and gender. Dr. Mills organized the Crimson Conference on Work and Family in 2020, and is an active member of various professional organizations, including the Academy of Management, the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, and the Work and Family Researchers’ Network (WFRN), and is Co-Founder of the WFRN Special Interest Group ‘Work-Family and Gender.’

Sandra Mortal is a Professor of Finance at the Culverhouse College of Business at the University of Alabama. Her research interests are in the areas of corporate finance, corporate governance and diversity. In her latest stream of research she is interested in studying the interplay between diversity, corporate governance and executive labor markets. Her research has been published in reputed academic journals such as Review of Financial Studies, Journal of Financial and Quantitative Finance and Academy of Management Journal. Her work is often discussed in popular media such as the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

Prior to joining Bama, Prof. Mortal worked at the Securities and Exchange Commission, where she was involved with the implementation of the Dodd Frank Act. She has taught at various other universities including University of Missouri and University of Memphis.

Mortal received her Ph.D. from University of Georgia, MBA from University of Central Florida, and undergraduate degree from Universidade Católica Portuguesa.

Stacey G. Robinson is an associate professor at the University of Alabama (PhD, Florida State University). Stacey’s research focuses on innovating and understanding the consumer, and frontline employee (FLE) experience, in retail and service exchanges. Recently, her research has focused on the role gender plays in both the consumer and FLE experience. Her research has been published in the Journal of Marketing, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, International Journal of Research in Marketing, Journal of Service Research, Journal of Business Research, among others, and has been presented at a number of international and national conferences. Stacey serves on the editorial review board for the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Journal of Retailing, Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, Journal of Service Research, and the Journal of Business Research and is a board member of AMA’s Retail and Pricing SIG and SERVSIG. Pre-academic career, Stacey worked in the financial services industry, as Vice President of Product Management for a large US consumer bank.

2:00 - 2:45 p.m.

Do I Have to Answer That Question and Do I Want to Work There? : Unique Career Challenges

Women are often faced with unique challenges when pursuing a new role. This session will focus on how to address these challenges, ranging from how to deal with illegal interview questions (e.g., about your marital status or family planning) to issues related to salary negotiation and work-life balance.

Lisa is an experienced HR practitioner with over 21 years in the banking industry working alongside business managers of all levels from entry to executive leaders.

For the past 15 years, Lisa has been a leader in implementing career development initiatives helping to improve organizational effectiveness by enhancing leadership capabilities and performance. Her passion is leading and developing others while inspiring others to do the same. She achieves this by creating and facilitating corporate learning events and designing leadership and early career programs focused on employees, teams and senior leaders.

At South State Bank, Lisa leads the direction of campus recruiting initiatives along with the design and implementation of career development programs. As a consultant, she has lead the facilitation and provided coaching  for sales training at Richardson Inc. in partnership with Redfin. Lisa’s years of experience and ability to connect with her audience is what makes Lisa so special.

3:00 - 3:45 p.m.

Entrepreneurship: Is It the Right Time/Option for You?

Deciding to start your own business can be exhilarating, but it also comes with distinct obstacles compared to other career paths. This session will help you consider if entrepreneurship is right for you, and the key steps for success.


Results Oriented and Hands On. Those characteristics are what describe Alice M. Gordon Holloway, Instructor of Management at The University of Alabama Culverhouse College of Business in the Department of Management and Executive Problem Solver, and CEO at Skye Connect Incorporated who firmly believes what gets measured gets done.

Prior to her academic career, Alice launched five entrepreneurial enterprises representing the business communications, supply chain diversity and health and safety industries. Her public sector work includes working at Alabama Power and Southern Nuclear national electric and nuclear power corporate utility in the areas of utility management, community relations, and leadership.

As a business strategist, her private sector work has included working with Southern Research, Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority, City of Mobile, Illinois Department of Transportation and American Association of Blacks in Energy. She is a past Merit Award winner from the International Association of Business Communicators and listed as Top Supplier Diversity Ambassador nationally by MBN USA Magazine.

Her research streams includes studying micro and macro entrepreneurship, organizational threats, strategic innovations, business ethics, board governance and emerging technologies in artificial intelligence.

She has authored and presented academic conference papers at the Midwest Academy of Management (MAOM) and the United States Association for Small Business Entrepreneurship (USASBE).

Alice completed her Ph.D. in Business Administration with research in Entrepreneurship in from the University of South Alabama and received her MBA from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Bachelor of Arts from the University of South Alabama.

Gina Simpson knows that anyone with enough passion and initiative can be successful. She believes this so much that she dedicates her time to empowering ambitious and motivated individuals to reach for their dreams. Gina’s energetic optimism for success is infectious! She has helped countless people overcome fear and other obstacles to increase their confidence and enable them to launch businesses, set higher goals, and develop strategic plans to reach their goals. An entrepreneur herself, Gina knows the challenges and rewards associated with ambitious goals. Combining her professional experience with her passion to help others, Gina founded Soluna Strategies, a firm that specializes in developing energetic, innovative, and successful individuals and organizations. She is a highly sought-after, charismatic keynote speaker and author that works with students, individual clients, and organizations moving them towards actualization of their goals. Her work is rooted in the belief that our futures are unlimited and all dreams are possible to achieve. Gina Simpson, a certified professional coach, holds a M.S. Degree in Marketing and a B.S. Degree in Business Management with a concentration in Entrepreneurship from the University of Alabama. Additionally, she currently serves as a Clinical Instructor there in the field of entrepreneurship. Gina has received numerous awards throughout her career including The Rising Star Entrepreneurship Award by the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce, the Soroptimist Woman of Distinction, the Roots and Wings Award by the Women in Business Council and is a two time recipient of the Steve Woodward Outstanding Faculty Award. She balances family life with her professional life while remaining active in the community as a member of several boards.

4:00-4:45 p.m.

The Art of Networking and Branding; Finding Your Strength

Networking is an important aspect of anyone’s career, but it doesn’t come naturally to all of us. Furthermore, women do not always benefit from the same networking tactics as men. Learn how to leverage your skills to improve your personal brand and successfully network.


Debra Nelson is President of Elevate Communications, a professional development and communication services firm that provides customized training and communication solutions in diversity, equity, and inclusion, leadership and organizational development, and program and performance management. Prior to founding Elevate, Debra held executive positions in industries spanning media, higher education, automotive manufacturing, and gaming and hospitality.

Facilitation/Training/Coaching Experience

A certified personal development coach, Debra is authorized by Korn Ferry to administer and analyze the Emotional Social Competency Inventory (ESCI-360 assessment tool). She also facilitates, designs, and delivers training content to large and small organizations. Additionally, Debra is a certified facilitator and coach in The Four Stages of Psychological Safety™ training delivery and survey administration. While a regular contributor to Pivot magazine, she wrote about corporate and professional development matters.

Corporate Experience

Debra is the former Director and Head of Communication at Brasfield & Gorrie, a leading construction company based in Birmingham, Alabama. As Vice President at MGM Resorts International, she is credited with steering the diversity initiative to national prominence and helping increase revenue and profitability. Debra has also held executive appointments at DaimlerChrysler, Mercedes-Benz companies, The University of Alabama System, and in radio and television.

Social and Civic Experience

As Board Chair of the Urban Chamber of Commerce in Las Vegas, Nevada, Debra led negotiations that resulted in a partnership with the City of Las Vegas for the operations of a multi-million-dollar business incubator. She created the Diversity Professionals Network as a platform for sharing and promoting best practices in the gaming industry. Additionally, she founded the Women’s Leadership Conference in Nevada, an annual national event that promotes the personal and professional development of women leaders.

Civic Recognition and Volunteerism

Debra was recognized as one of the nation’s leading diversity and inclusion practitioners by Black Enterprise, DiversityInc, Savoy, and Global Gaming Business magazines. Automotive journalists named her “Woman of the Year” for impacting diversity and inclusion in the automotive industry. She is an inductee of the Nevada Women’s Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame, where she holds its highest honor, the Athena Award for Leadership. Among many other accolades, she received the “Woman of Distinction” award from the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), Las Vegas Chapter. In 2020, she became the first woman and first African American to receive the Leadership Award from the Engineering Council of Birmingham. Also, she was named an Outstanding Alumna of the College of Communication and Information Sciences at The University of Alabama (UA).

Debra currently serves on the boards of Noland Health Services, Inc., WBHM Public Radio, and the Board of Visitors for the College of Communication and Information Sciences at UA, where she is a former board chairperson. She is also a member of the President’s Cabinet at UA. Previously, she served on the boards of the College of Southern Nevada Foundation, Boys & Girls Club of Las Vegas, William Paterson University Foundation, and the Las Vegas Urban League. She is a former member of the Executive Leadership Council (ELC). Today Debra is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and the Birmingham (AL) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, where she is a past vice president. She is a graduate of Leadership Las Vegas and Leadership Birmingham.

4:45 - 5:30 p.m.

Tours, networking, exhibits, booths

5:30 - 6:00 p.m.


6:00 p.m.

Dinner in Hewson Hall Atrium

Saturday, March 26 | Hewson Hall, Room 0002

7:00 - 8:00 a.m.

Continental Breakfast

8:00 - 8:45 a.m.

Culverhouse DEI Women’s Leadership Initiative Discussion

Hear about the umbrella effort behind this Conference and the Recognition Dinner.

James E. King Jr. is the Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Miles-Rose Professor of Leadership in the Culverhouse College of Commerce at the University of Alabama. He received his Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an MBA (with Human Resource Concentration) from the Kelly School of Business at Indiana University in Bloomington and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Alabama. Prior to entering academia he was a human resource professional for the General Electric Corporation where he completed the Human Resource Leadership Program and worked in areas including recruiting, appraisal, training and labor relations. He has served as an expert witness in the area of employment discrimination and has worked with municipal departments to carry out fair and defensible promotional processes.

His research interests include improving career and assessment outcomes, human resource analytics, work/life interactions and workplace religious diversity issues. His work has been published in various human resource and management journals.

9:00 - 9:45 a.m.

Owning and Leveraging Your Personality and Communication Style

Many companies utilize various tools to assess your personality and communication style (e.g., DISC, Personalysis, Birkman). Learn how to leverage the results of these assessments and any feedback about your interpersonal style to push your career forward, while also avoiding being confined by them.

Troy Haas has served as the President and CEO of Brownell for over 28 years. He is recognized as a champion of the travel industry and has served as a thought-leader through innovative industry programs such as Virtuoso’s Innovation Teams, Ritz-Carlton’s President’s Roundtable, the Four Seasons Advisory Board, and the Lindblad Expeditions Advisory Board.

While many of Troy’s business school classmates chose careers in finance and investment banking, Troy elected to join the travel industry, a surprising move for many who believed the Internet would equal the death of the travel industry. Troy saw an opportunity to elevate the role of travel agent to travel advisor (much like the financial industry saw a shift from transaction-oriented stock brokers, to fee and experienced-based financial planners), and most importantly, work in an industry that changes people’s lives through exceptional travel experiences. Troy’s passion and creative thinking is widely respected by his colleagues. He has recently served two terms on the Virtuoso Member Advisory board and as Director of the Southeastern Region.

Troy is not only passionate about the travel industry but also his community in Birmingham, Alabama. He is currently on the Board of Directors for Railroad Park and has served as a member of the Vestry of the Church of the Advent, Leadership Birmingham, and Leadership Alabama. In 2017, Troy was named CEO of the Year by the Birmingham Business Journal.

Troy has been married to Ann Damon Haas since 1980 and they have three children.

Education: (Crimson all the way through, as much as Harvard doesn’t like it when he says that)

University of Alabama, BS Accounting

Harvard University, MBA

Caitlin Jones is the Global Director of Talent & Development Delivery at The Coca-Cola Company, based in Atlanta, Georgia. In this role, Caitlin is responsible for driving the programs and platforms that connect, develop, and manage talent across the global Coca-Cola network.

Caitlin joined the Coca-Cola system in 2013 as an HR intern and returned to the Company via an accelerated HR leadership development program in 2014. Since then, she has taken on various roles of increasing responsibility, with experience in Talent Management, Compensation, Talent Acquisition, Employee Relations, and as an HR Business Partner. She has been a strong advocate for agile ways of working and continues to address organizational barriers to agility in her current role. Her current areas of focus include transforming Coca-Cola’s strategies for learning and career development to better reflect the realities of our current global environment.

Prior to joining Coca-Cola, she worked for Mercedes-Benz in Organizational Development, and in project management with an industrial construction firm.

Caitlin graduated from The University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 2011, with a concentration in Human Resource Strategy and a minor in Psychology. She later obtained her master’s degree in Industrial & Labor Relations at Cornell University in 2014. Caitlin is originally from Birmingham, Alabama. In her spare time, Caitlin enjoys the outdoors, cycling, hosting an Airbnb, and being a mom to her fur babies, Panda, DJ, Pluto, and Moose.

Daphne Palmer, CPA, is a native of Forkland, a small town in Greene County, Alabama. A first generation college graduate, Daphne holds a B.S. Business Commerce with a concentration in Accounting and a Masters of Accountancy, both from The University of Alabama.

She began her professional career in the Atlanta office of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, one of the ‘Big Four’ public accounting firms. There she worked in the Audit practice, mainly in the manufacturing industry. After a short time at PwC, Daphne left public accounting and accepted an Assistant Controller position at Industrial Warehouse Services, Inc., a trucking company in Tuscaloosa, Alabama where she had worked throughout college.

Back in Tuscaloosa, near her Alma Mater, Daphne was able to take advantage of an opportunity to teach Introductory Accounting at The University of Alabama as an adjunct basis. Beginning in fall 2015, Daphne became a full time Lecturer at the university, teaching Introductory Accounting, Intermediate Accounting, and Accounting Information Systems. She also serves students by providing life coaching and works on various recruitment and diversity and inclusiveness initiatives.

She hopes to provide students with guidance and mentoring, and to develop them in an out of the classroom. Her life motto is “I will help you Help Yourself”. She is also very passionate about raising awareness of the accounting profession among under-represented high school students.

Outside of her career, Daphne wears many hats. She is a daughter, sister, wife, and mother. She is the president of a non-profit organization Mind over Matter Youth Empowerment. The organization provides leadership, guidance, and mentorship that will equip young girls with the necessary tools for empowering their mind. In her spare time, Daphne enjoys spending time with her family, growing spiritually, being crafty, and coordinating various events.

Pritha Powell joined Regions in 2009 and is responsible for managing a team of 10 Commercial Card Account Managers across the Regions footprint, to successfully optimize their existing Commercial Card relationships with a primary focus on growth and retention. Regions is a regional bank that operates throughout the South, Midwest and Texas and is headquartered in Birmingham, Ala.

Pritha has 18 years of financial services experience, with 12 of those at Regions. Before her current position, Pritha served as a Corporate Marketing Strategist supporting Commercial and TM, as well as a Credit Card Product Manager, and started her career at Regions in Consumer Strategic Planning. Prior to joining Regions, she held roles in Business Development at Deutsche Bank and M.D. Sass in New York. She started her career at an investment consulting firm as an Investment Analyst at Segal Advisors in New York.

Pritha has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from New York University and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Alabama, Manderson Graduate School of Business -Executive Program, where she also served as class Vice President.

10:00 - 10: 45 a.m.

YouToo? : Handling Gender Discrimination and Harassment in the Workplace

Issues related to gender discrimination and harassment in the workplace are unfortunately all too common for women. This session will focus on how to address these distressing situations that may occur along your career path..

Charli K. Matthews, the Founder & CEO of Empowering Brands, a digital media and marketing services company that manages the brands Empowering Pumps & Equipment, Empowering Women in Industry, and the Empowering Industry Podcast. She has worked with the pump and equipment industry since 2005 and is a known leader for building brands, growing online networks, and helping industrial companies embrace digital media. Her passion and deep understanding of how to leverage social media platforms has enabled Empowering Pumps and Equipment™ to become the Information and Connection hub for industry.

James E. King Jr. is the Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Miles-Rose Professor of Leadership in the Culverhouse College of Commerce at the University of Alabama. He received his Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an MBA (with Human Resource Concentration) from the Kelly School of Business at Indiana University in Bloomington and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Alabama. Prior to entering academia he was a human resource professional for the General Electric Corporation where he completed the Human Resource Leadership Program and worked in areas including recruiting, appraisal, training and labor relations. He has served as an expert witness in the area of employment discrimination and has worked with municipal departments to carry out fair and defensible promotional processes.

His research interests include improving career and assessment outcomes, human resource analytics, work/life interactions and workplace religious diversity issues. His work has been published in various human resource and management journals.

11:00 - 11:45 a.m.

Still Pioneering: Women in Non-Traditional Spaces

Women have always pushed boundaries and opened doors for one another. Hear from women who are defying carving out space for themselves across career sectors—and how you can do the same.

Cynthia was born and raised in Tuscaloosa.  She graduated from Central High School and then attended Vanderbilt University.  She received a Bachelor of Arts from The University of Alabama, majoring in History and minoring in Spanish, and she also received her Juris Doctor from The University of Alabama School of Law. Cynthia is an attorney in the private practice of law where she concentrates in estate planning and probate, business law, and real estate.  She also owns a title company, Capitol Park Title.

Cynthia recently was elected to the State of Alabama House of Representatives for District 63 in Tuscaloosa. Previously, she served four terms on the Tuscaloosa City Council where she also was Chair of the council Finance committee and was elected by her peers as the President Pro Tem.   She is a graduate of Leadership Alabama and Co-Chair for its Regional Council; she serves on the Capstone Health Services Foundation, the Tuscaloosa County Tax Board, the Hank Poore Foundation, and the BankFirst Advisory Board; and she serves as a Sunday School teacher and on the Missions team at First United Methodist Church. Cynthia has two children, Lee and Miller. In her spare time, Cynthia enjoys playing tennis, walking, running, mountain bike riding, kayaking, and most any other outdoor activity!

Mildred Black is a leading expert at the intersection of people and culture. She provides People+Culture strategies to the world’s most successful companies.  She is the Founder and CEO of People Optimum Consulting, a minority-owned and Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB). 

Drawing from over two decades of experience as a senior HR leader, she empowers HR and ER leaders with human-centric, research-based solutions to improve human interactions in the workplace. She specializes in people+culture transformations, facilitated learning experiences, and professional development. She has helped thousands of leaders with strategy, labor law, diversity equity & inclusion, leadership, and workplace nuances.

Her roles as a top Human Resources executive included large, public, and private sectors. She led organizational initiatives to enhance employee experience, communications, technology, organizational development, and operational performance.

Mildred is a speaker, lecturer, and storyteller who has addressed audiences nationally and internationally. Mildred launched the People+Culture Vodcast to stimulate meaningful conversations for today’s workplace. In addition, Mildred is a media contributor. In 2021, The Wall Street Journal recognized Mildred as a Diversity+Business expert. Mildred has appeared as a contributor in The Wall Street Journal, and she has been a featured guest on ABC and Fox News. She earned her Executive MBA in Business Leadership from Georgia State University and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance from The University of Alabama. Mildred has studied business practices in Shanghai and Beijing China. In addition, Mildred has studied Strategy at Harvard Extension School. Mildred is a certified Senior Human Resources Professional through the Society of Human Resources Management and Human Resources Certification Institute.

Mildred is passionate about advancing her profession and her community. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc, Eta Xi Omega Chapter. She currently serves as the Past-President of the West Alabama SHRM Chapter,  the Chairperson for the Diverse Business Council of West Alabama, and she sits on the Board of Directors for the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. In addition, she has spent over 20 years in community organizing in service to women, children, and homeless populations. She is a member of The Impact Nation Fellowship Church where she also served over ten years as the Director of Missions and Community Outreach.

Mildred is passionate about creating pathways to growth, development and healing from the negative impacts of poverty. Her volunteerism and leadership in the community has focused on amplifying diversity, equity and inclusion for individuals and businesses with diverse backgrounds and being of service to those in need. Mildred believes in the power of education, creativity, and synergy to facilitate positive change in people and cultures.

Mildred is the proud mother of two loving human beings- Raqir Black, a Morehouse man and Noa Jordan, a freshman at Howard University. Mildred’s vision is a world without barriers to human greatness.  Her mission is to unlock human potential – one person at a time – to change the world.

12:00 - 12:45 p.m.

Boxed lunches, networking, adjournment, and tours