ATHENA Leadership Conference



In a world full of routines and challenges, we believe everyone could use a dose of inspiration. So, we want to ask you a simple,

yet powerful question:   Are you ready to be inspired?

If your answer is a resounding “Yes!” or even a curious “Maybe” we invite you to keep March 19, 2024 reserved for the

3rd Annual ATHENA Leadership Conference.

We are excited to announce that this year’s ATHENA Leadership Conference – “People, Purpose, Passion” will be held at SAS in Cary, NC!

This full-day conference is designed around the ATHENA Leadership Model, featuring engaging breakout sessions, workshops, and networking opportunities. Tailored to address the challenges encountered by women business owners, professionals, and their male allies, the event also provides a platform for local business owners to showcase their products and services at booths during participant mingling sessions.

Inspiration has the remarkable ability to ignite passion, fuel creativity, and propel upward to new heights. It’s not just about motivation; it’s about discovering the spark that can transform ordinary moments into extraordinary ones. Let’s get inspired together!

Given the limited availability of tickets, we recommend securing your spot right away, as we anticipate a swift sell-out for this highly anticipated event.

ATHENA Leadership Conference Details:

Date: Tuesday, March 19, 2024


SAS Executive Briefing Center ((EBC)

820 SAS Drive, Cary NC 27513

Conference Agenda: 

Welcome & Opening Remarks (10:00AM)
Session 1 (10:30AM – 11:20AM)
Session 2 (11:30AM – 12:20PM)
Lunch Break (12:20PM – 1:10PM)
Panel Discussion (1:15PM – 1:45PM)
Session 3 (2:10PM – 3:00PM)

Networking Reception and Vendor Exhibition (3:00PM – 4:00PM)




Founded in 2014, ATHENA of the Triangle is a licensee of programs developed by ATHENA International, a global non-profit organization founded in 1982 on the deeply held belief that women can achieve a worldwide balance of leadership when they are recognized, cultivated, and encouraged as leaders.

Our 3rd Annual ATHENA Leadership Conference is a full day conference and will be structured around the ATHENA Leadership Model (Live Authentically, Learn Constantly, Build Relationships, Foster Collaboration, Advocate Fiercely, Give Back, Celebrate). There will be breakout sessions, workshops, and panel presentations relevant to the challenges faced by professionals, women business owners, and allies of women in leadership. Local business owners will also have the opportunity to showcase their products and services at vendor booths during participant mingling sessions. Attendees from all over the Triangle will come together in support of the advancement of women’s leadership.

Attendees will have the opportunity to participate in 3 moderated breakout sessions. In between sessions a keynote speaker will deliver a message focused on our theme. We will also host a networking reception for attendees to continue to visit vendors and connect with one another.


Become an ATHENA Leadership Conference Sponsor


Michelle Proctor (Moderator)

Chief of Staff, Research and Quantitative Solutions SAS Institute

Michelle Proctor serves as an air traffic controller for the SVP and senior leadership team; as an integrator connecting work streams that would otherwise remain siloed; as a communicator linking the leadership team and the broader organization; as an honest broker and truth teller when the leader needs a wide-ranging view without turf considerations; and as a confidant without an organizational agenda.

Experienced Business Operations Manager who is a strategist, consultant and implementer to streamline activities within the organization and align with the priorities of the SVP. Handles the day-to-day operations of personnel and escalations to allow the division head to focus on securing growing business and strategic direction of the organization. Works behind the scenes to solve problems, mediate disputes and deal with issues while driving culture, community, and creating & maintaining cross-departmental relationships to enable leadership success.

Makes it a priority to passionately connect the women of SAS by leading the Women’s Initiative Network (WIN). A grass-roots organization with a mission of helping one another achieve personal satisfaction and professional excellence, while reaching into our communities to empower women and inspire students to pursue STEM-related careers. WIN is a group of over 1000 individuals at SAS Headquarters who are focused on professional development, community involvement and networking. We have successfully enabled additional chapters of SAS WIN in India, Scotland, UK, Canada, Australia, Brazil and Minneapolis.

Dionne G. McGee

President and CEO, DG McGee Enterprises

She’s the President & CEO of DG McGee Enterprises. Speaker, and Author, with a ROAR! Dionne and her team help organizations and individuals find their road to leadership and entrepreneurial success. DG McGee Enterprises is a Woman-Owned Project Management firm specializing in customized programming (cohorts, incubators, accelerators, and digital programming)

DG McGee Enterprises is committed to excellence and creating innovative and flexible solutions for its clients. Dionne has over 25 years of corporate experience, with a decade of those years in the executive suite, leading sales teams and generating multi-million dollar wins. She is the author of “Finding Your ROAR” and Founder of the Coaching Program, R.O.A.R University, which means to be Relentless. Optimistic. Ambitious and Results Driven. She is also an advocate for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

She has been featured in Formidable Woman magazine as well as Voyage LA magazine.

She was nominated as the Cathy Hughes Businesswoman of the Year (2019). She is an Advisory Board Member for the Women’s Business Center of NC and recently, was appointed as a Board of Directors member of the Garner Chamber of Commerce in her own community. She earned her Bachelor of Arts (B.A) from North Carolina Wesleyan College and her Project Management Certification (PMP) in 2011. DG McGee Enterprises is certified as a Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB), by the Small Business Administration. A (DBE) Disadvantaged Business Enterprise for North Carolina, (HUB) Historically Underutilized Business, (SPSF) Small Professional Services Firm, and (MWBE) Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise and NC Small Business Enterprise (NC SBE) and is also a Project Management Professional (PMP), ITIL and Scrum Master accredited firm. She is married to Corey McGee a Raleigh Fireman and they have two amazing kids.

Fun Fact: She’s a huge Prince Fan!

Traci Philips

Founder, The Innate Coach LLC

As an Executive Leadership and Performance Coach to Visionary Leaders, Traci Philips has helped countless corporate and business professionals successfully and consciously lead and communicate who they are and the value of this with integrity and truth. She has worked with ex-executives in federal prison, high-ranking corporate leaders and serial entrepreneurs who have created businesses that launched a new norm within their industries. Traci understands how to cultivate vision and communicate its value. She has developed unique skills in recognizing and translating patterns in thought, emotion, language and behavior that can lead to successful and unsuccessful outcomes. Traci’s coaching is founded on the neuroscience around the 3 levels of human intelligence and how to develop these to improve performance and leadership. Her ultimate goal is to support her clients to live authentically and lead powerfully by creating more awareness and better communication around who they are, how they want to lead and influence and what legacy they want to leave behind

Danielle Pavliv

Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, SAS

Danielle Pavliv, CDE®(she/her), is the Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at SAS where she serves as a change agent and thought leader in creating and executing workforce diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies. In her role, she consults with business leaders and employees to develop interventions that infuse diversity, equity & inclusion in to how the organization thinks, acts, and operates globally. Danielle is passionate about creating positive change, advocacy, and inclusion of underrepresented groups in the workplace and community.

Danielle has two bachelor’s degrees in Spanish & French from North Carolina State University, and a master’s degree in human resource management from the University of Southern California. She is also a Certified Diversity Executive and has over a decade of experience in the field of diversity, equity & inclusion. Danielle lives in Apex, North Carolina, USA.



Fielding Arnold

Coach and Guide, Third Mast

A former maritime captain and Outward Bound instructor, I have decades of experience taking people into wild places: in the mountains, oceans and inside themselves. These experiences have shown me that we are all capable of so much more than we believe is possible.

I love supporting ambitious, purpose driven leaders as they navigate their leadership journey, both through 1-on-1 coaching and group coaching and group experiences. I work in an integral way, believing we all do our best work when we can bring our whole, human selves to our professional roles. The work I do with clients often includes gaining clarity about strengths, values, where (and how) boundaries need to be set and leaning into and utilizing fear when it shows us the path to growth. It often involves deeply (re)connecting with joy in life and work.

I have over 20 years in professional leadership and people development supporting leaders in the business world, hold an MBA and am an ICF certified coach, trained through New Ventures West. I’ve taught and facilitated for Executive Education and entrepreneurship programs at top ten universities and have coached, led, taught, captained, trained, facilitated or supported hundreds of clients and students over my career.

I’ve had the privilege of serving clients from universities, nonprofits, fast growth startups and companies on the Fortune 500. Past clients include individuals and teams from Auth0, Department of Labor, Duke University, Gilead Sciences, Leadership Triangle, LinkedIN, Novozymes, Reddit, Twitch, US Navy and WebFlow and many more.

Anessa Fike

CEO and Founder, Fike+Co

Anessa Fike, otherwise known as the Queen of Fractional HR, is author of The Revolution of Work: Fuck the Patriarchy and the Workplace It Built, and is also CEO and Founder of Fike + Co, a multi-million-dollar consulting firm that specializes in interim or Fractional People, HR, and Talent Executive Leadership with companies that are experiencing growth, scale, transition, or transformation. Anessa has led more than a dozen startups and organizations as Chief People Officer and has worked with more than 110 organizations globally including NPR, Niche, and Uber. Anessa has become an industry leader on all things People and Talent – you can catch her fire content on LinkedIn! – and she has also won many HR awards, including Most Inclusive HR Influencer.

Anessa has been a product advisor for multiple HR Tech companies, been a keynote and panel speaker at regional and national conferences, been a guest on many industry podcasts, and is an IDEA Practitioner with NASA. She is also on the Board of Advisors for NC Tech and on the Leadership Council for the National Small Business Association. Her mission – and the mission of Fike + Co – is to help companies build or course correct to create workplace cultures that allow ALL humans to thrive.

Kristin Frade

Associate Partner, Novus Global

Kristin is a wife, mom, business owner, and bundt cake lover! She has been coaching, training, and mentoring people for more than 15 years and had previously built a business that landed her in the top 1% of her former company. Now, as an Executive Coach with Novus Global, and faculty at the Meta Performance Institute for Coaching, she is an expert in customizing communication and seeing people as individuals contributing to the betterment of the whole. Kristin thrives off of the “a-ha” moments people get when they hear her speak. She has a gift for seeing things her clients don’t see for themselves and illuminating blind spots. Her coaching clients range from entrepreneurs to executives that are high-performing, deeply committed individuals. They come to her to find clarity in where they are and where they want to be, and then with actionable items and accountability, get there…faster.

J. Dwayne Garnett

Love Advocate & Value-Based Educator, Love Is A Parable

J. Dwayne Garnett, a Love Advocate and Value-Based Educator, is a recipient of the prestigious Parrish “Ham” Womble Distinguished Service Award. As the visionary founder and CEO of Love Is A Parable, he specializes in solving the unique needs of individuals and organizations through a value-based approach. Drawing from senior and executive-level leadership experience, Garnett is renowned as an inspiring speaker, esteemed author, and trusted consultant committed to fostering personal acceptance, reflective storytelling, and togetherness through the power of value-based education.

Garnett’s expertise has made him a highly sought-after speaker, delivering impactful keynote addresses, training sessions, and workshops for a diverse array of audiences and occasions. Notable engagements include the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce Workforce Development Series, Wake County Health and Human Services, Benedict College, Voorhees University, and numerous others. His insights have garnered attention from prestigious publications such as Main & Broad Magazine, and he has shared his wisdom as a featured guest on PBS North Carolina’s Black Issues Forum.

As a dynamic and captivating orator, Garnett ignites audiences with his passion for living with purpose and intention. His speaking repertoire covers a wide spectrum of topics including value-based education, personal and professional development, diversity, equity, and inclusion, career readiness, recruitment and sales strategies, organizational management, and conflict navigation.

In his role as CEO of Love Is A Parable, Garnett continues to catalyze positive change within communities, empowering individuals and organizations to address their distinct needs while fostering unity and embracing the power of value-based education. For further insights into the impactful work of J. Dwayne Garnett, visit their website at

J. Dwayne Garnett, MHA, BSRT

Heidi Kleine

Life Strategist, Heidi Kleine Coaching

Heidi’s philosophy of Level Up Coaching is all about elevating your game, that thing you are called to do, to the next level. In the world of gaming, they talk about Leveling Up; achieving a new, higher standard in a particular area. To achieve a new level, you need to master the skills and tasks where you are and set your sights on the next level. Heidi’s powerful, intentional questions will help you clarify and articulate the vision of what you are trying to achieve. Together you will explore action steps to live into your vision. She will help you explore potential obstacles and challenges and craft specific plans to overcome them

Traci Philips

Founder, The Innate Coach LLC

As an Executive Leadership and Performance Coach to Visionary Leaders, Traci Philips has helped countless corporate and business professionals successfully and consciously lead and communicate who they are and the value of this with integrity and truth. She has worked with ex-executives in federal prison, high-ranking corporate leaders and serial entrepreneurs who have created businesses that launched a new norm within their industries. Traci understands how to cultivate vision and communicate its value. She has developed unique skills in recognizing and translating patterns in thought, emotion, language and behavior that can lead to successful and unsuccessful outcomes. Traci’s coaching is founded on the neuroscience around the 3 levels of human intelligence and how to develop these to improve performance and leadership. Her ultimate goal is to support her clients to live authentically and lead powerfully by creating more awareness and better communication around who they are, how they want to lead and influence and what legacy they want to leave behind.

Dr. Ruth Steidinger

Steidinger Consulting

Experienced Leadership Consultant with a demonstrated history of working in the professional training & coaching industry. Skilled in Coaching, Staff Development, Educational Leadership, Leadership Development, and Program Development. Strong human resources professional with a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) focused in Educational Leadership and Administration.

Felicia Trujillo

Founder/CEO, Food Seen

Founder of Food Seen. Elevating food and food-adjacent brands, including agtech, CPG, manufacturing, food service and more through social media marketing, public relations, content creation and digital ads.

Founder of The Lotus Room – A space designed for women to connect, learn and be inspired through social opportunities and informative sessions.

Partner at The Kitchen Raleigh, a consultancy for food, beverage and hospitality.

Dr. Saundra Wall Williams

CEO, WMS Leadership Solutions

Dr. Saundra Wall Williams is an accomplished senior executive in higher education with over 25 years of extensive experience, achievements and demonstrated results as a leader, faculty member, mentor, coach, consultant, speaker and practitioner in higher education and technology. From 2001 until 2016, she was the Senior Vice President and Chief of Information Technology, Data, Business Intelligence, Library Systems, Distance Learning and Workforce Development for the North Carolina Community College System. She led the implementation of the largest computer information system in higher education, in addition to training and development, instructional technology, information technology systems implementation, information technology security, technology infrastructure, software design, digital transformation, distance learning, and data systems.

While serving in numerous leadership roles, Dr. Saundra remained an active consulting partner focusing on leadership coaching. She is currently the CEO and Founding Partner of WMS Consulting and Training, a professional development, consulting and training company that supports emerging and established women leaders to increase their influence, impact and income.

She is a member of the Board of Trustees at Wake Technical Community College, Board of Directors for the Ultimate Medical Academy, NC State University College of Sciences Foundation Board, Public School Forum, and Girl Scouts – Coastal Pines. She is a member of the Steering Committee for Wake Invests in Women.

Dr. Saundra is a Kellogg Foundation Houle Scholar in Adult Education, Azusa Scholar in Divinity, NC State University College of Sciences Alumni of the Year, North Carolina Chief Information Officer of the Year, North Carolina’s Technology Woman of the Year, North Carolina ACHI Magazine 2018 Woman of Achievement and 2019 NC State University Outstanding Black Alumni.

A published researcher and author in her professional field of technology and adult education, she has written 3 books, co-authored 6 books and numerous articles and book chapters.

Dr. Saundra is a graduate of NC State University with a BS in Mathematics, MS in Applied Mathematics and Statistics, and Doctor of Education in Adult and Community College Education. She holds a Master of Divinity from Regent University and was awarded the Honorary Associate of Science degree from Richmond Community College. She is a certified CIO with the State of NC through the University of NC at Chapel Hill, a certified Strengths Champion Certified Coach® and a certified Transformation Coach.



March 19, 2024

Session i



Presented by: Anessa Fike
CEO and Founder of Fike+Co

We cannot all keep working like we have been and expect our lives to be better. Employee disengagement is at an all-time high, and so is stress and low levels of mental health. We can’t just tweak small things – we need a Revolution in the way we work.



Presented by: Felicia Trujillo
Founder/ CEO Food Seen

When you’re building a business or leading a team, you don’t always have to work from a formula or replicate something that’s already been done. If you created an environment that you feel that you would thrive in, it’s likely you’ll create a team, a company and an environment that will thrive as well.



Presented by: Fielding Arnold
Founder, Coach and Guide – Third Mast

This workshop will support you in braving your way to becoming the type of leader, professional, and creative contributor you are feeling called to be. Together we’ll take a journey in three parts: letting go of the shoulds that are keeping you from growing into your full leadership ability; finding and following your internal guidance (found in your story, values, the data within your emotions, including your fears); and beginning to write your own map to guide you on your journey to a professional next that is aligned with your goals and who you know yourself to be.

Session ii



Presented By: J Dwayne Garnett
Love Advocate & Value-Based Educator
Love Is A Parable

Participants will explore value-based leadership, an idea that leaders should draw upon their own and others’ values—including those established for their organization— for direction and motivation. Gain insight into ways value-based leadership can decrease employee turnover, improve productivity, build confidence, and create a sense of belonging.



Presented by: Dr. Saundra Wall Williams
CEO, WMS Leadership Solutions

When you are pursuing your professional goals, you will need support and guidance to develop certain skills in leadership. Both mentors and sponsors are necessary as you move to your next level of success in your career. In building a career, mentors are critical. In moving up in your career, sponsors are critical. Therefore, you must understand the differences between working with a mentor and working with an executive sponsor and what each can do for your career. In this session, the participant will understand the difference of a mentor and a sponsor and how to develop strategies to work with each one.



Presented by: Kristin Frade
Associate Partner – Novus Global

In a world where everyone’s highlight reel is blasted over social media, it is more difficult than ever to feel confident in the way we were created, who we were designed to be. If the comparison bug has ever bitten you, or if you deal with insecurity, this is designed to help you see a breakthrough. Wouldn’t it be freeing to know that you don’t have to be good at everything and why? Using practical examples, I show you the power of operating in your strengths and just as importantly, how to release the pressure to be everything to everyone.

Session iii



Presented by: Traci Philips
Founder, The Innate Coach LLC

In this interactive workshop, we’ll explore the unparalleled contributions of women in leadership roles, emphasizing the unique blend of intelligence, empathy, instinct and intuition they bring to the table. Through a deep dive into the three pillars of the Leadership Quotient (IQ, EQ, and PQ), attendees will gain insights into how female leaders can leverage these qualities to drive meaningful change and foster inclusive, high-performing environments.



Presented by: Heidi Kleine
Life Strategist at Heidi Kleine Coaching

The ‘Living with Intent: Embrace A Season Mindset for Purposeful Leading and Passionate Living’ workshop is a dynamic session that goes beyond traditional leadership development, offering participants a unique blend of intentional living and purposeful leading. By learning A Season Mindset, attendees will gain clarity on personal and leadership aspirations, cultivating self-awareness through reflective practices. The workshop equips participants with practical tools to align personal values with leadership actions, fostering authenticity and trust by exploring the synergy between purposeful leading and passionate living. Attendees will leave with a personalized roadmap for integrating A Season Mindset into their daily lives, ensuring a harmonious and fulfilling balance between professional and personal realms.



Presented by: Dr. Ruth Steidinger
Stedinger Consulting

Research has shown that success is more strongly correlated to confidence than competence. While some may be genetically predisposed to be more confident, anyone has the capacity to change that genetic makeup if they are willing to do the work. What is the bridge that moves thoughts to action? We will explore the elements of that bridge in this workshop, and forge a plan for change.