The Florida chapter of the National Diversity Council held its 2018 Florida Diversity & Leadership Conference on April 27, 2018 at the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando. The event brings together business and community leaders from around the state to share essential leadership skills and diversity & inclusion best practices – items key to sustaining a thriving workplace culture and contribute to business growth. The conference was comprised of multiple panel sessions and two keynote speakers that discussed topics relating to the conference theme of “Inclusion: The Source of Innovation.”

The morning breakfast opened with the recognition of the 2018 Leadership Excellence Award Recipients who were selected based on their dedication to leading with influence and integrity as well as their passion for developing others’ careers (full list of recipients below.) D.A. Abrams, Chief Diversity Officer for the United States Tennis Association (USTA), served as the morning Keynote Speaker and shared his story about how, from a young age, his career has lead to influencing diversity & inclusion in the sports industry.

During lunch, the 2018 Most Powerful and Influential Women were recognized for their exemplary contributions to their organizations and communities. The luncheon Keynote Speaker was Kay Rawlins, Founder & Vice President of Community Relations for the Orlando City Soccer Club, who spoke about female representation in the sports industry, both within the athlete population and the team administrations. She shared a troubling statistic on this topic: “45% of the athletes in America are women, but female athletes only get 5% of the sports air time.” As a sports team founder, Kay Rawlins is in a unique position to address these gender disparities.

The National Diversity Council thanks the following sponsor organizations for their support of the 2018 Diversity & Leadership Conference: ADP, Darden, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, USAA, and UCF Continuing Education. Special thanks to the team of dedicated volunteers who helped to make this event happen. If you are interested in serving on the planning committee for next year’s 10th annual Diversity & Leadership Conference, please reach out to Elana Powell at [email protected]

2018 Most Powerful & Influential Women Award

Belissa Alvarez – Chief Business Development Officer, Miami Children’s Museum

Faye Ashby – Sr. Vice President & Chief Account Officer, Norwegian Cruise Lines

Derree Braswell – Vice President of Performance Excellence, The Adecco Group

Ashley Brundage – Vice President of Inclusion, PNC Bank

Rosanna Fiske – Vice President of Corporate Communications, Wells Fargo

Beth Simonetti – EVP & Chief Human Resources Officer, Tech Data Corporation

2018 Leadership Excellence Award

Capt. Damien Gipson – Chaplain and Captain, United States Air Force

Nick Spain – Vice President of HR, RMS Functional Organizations, Lockheed Martin Corporation

Marcos M. T. Villarreal – Sr. Hispanic Market Consultant/Sr. Account Executive, Telemundo

Melissa Van Dine – Senior VP of Human Resources, The Kessler Collection

Lee Nasehi – President and CEO, Lighthouse Central Florida

Bill Oakley – President and CEO, Goodwill Central Florida


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